Wendyl Wants To Know

Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl wants to Know: Extra effort produces tasty, cruelty free bangers

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Heller's Free Farmed Country Pork Sausages. Photo / Supplied
Heller's Free Farmed Country Pork Sausages. Photo / Supplied

Finding a good sausage was once a hard task indeed. Coming home from the supermarket with anything but a sausage sourced from pigs reared in crates, highly salted, full of preservatives and artificially flavoured was just a dream. Now, thanks largely to the growing awareness of the inhumane treatment of pigs, major supermarket suppliers have started catering to consumers who reject cruelty, and like their food not to be "pork flavoured" but real pork. These sausages certainly tasted good, according to my family, so all that remains is to check what is in them.

Ingredients:

* Pork (84 per cent)

This is a great showing for a sausage. Our Food Standards Authority defines a sausage as containing 50 per cent meat so going the extra mile and giving us 34 per cent more meat than necessary is very nice of them.

The fact that the label doesn't say "meat including pork" as some sausages do also tells us that there is unlikely to be any "meat trimmings" in these sausages which can be external parts of the animal such as skin and ears, but not internal parts such as liver or heart.

The fact that this is labelled as "New Zealand Free Farmed. No Crates and Stalls" tells us that the pigs used for these sausages were humanely farmed. According to the Hellers website the meat for these sausages is sourced from suppliers who do not use stalls nor farrowing crates. "Piglets are born outside and live with the sow until weaned. The piglets then go to live in an 'eco barn' where they are free to roam inside and outside as nature intended ... these are big barns where pigs can roam around and have open doors to allow them to walk outside as well."

They also state that these sausages are gluten free, no hormones are used and regular independent animal welfare audits are carried out.

* Water

* Maize flour

This is cornflour which will be in the sausages as a thickener

* Salt

Sausages can be very salty. These have 1109mg of sodium per sausage which is high considering the ideal consumption of sodium per day is between 920 to 1600mg per day.

* Sugar

This will be in here for flavour and at 0.8g per sausage it isn't too high.

* Mineral Salts (451, 450)

The first ingredient is sodium triphosphate and the second potassium pyrophosphate. Both are mineral salts used in foods as preservatives and will also help keep these sausages tender and moist.

* Dehydrated vegetables

Not sure what vegetables these are but they will be adding to flavour and also filling out the sausage for that remaining 16 per cent after the pork. Nice to see vegetables being used instead of soy protein which is commonly used in processed foods as a meat filler or extender.

* Vegetable fibre

This is usually included in ingredients labels because it is in the product to bulk up its fibre content and make it healthier. There is no listing for fibre on the nutritional information so I'm assuming this is in here for the same reason as the dehydrated vegetables.

* Preservative (223)

This is sodium metabisulphite which, when it comes to preservatives, is a better option than sodium nitrite which has many health concerns attached to it and commonly found in processed meats like sausages. Sodium metabisulphite can be an issue for some people who have an intolerance to sulphites, including asthmatics.

* Herb and herb extracts

These will be in here for flavouring.

* Yeast extract

This will be in here to provide a meaty taste to the sausage.

* Edible casing

It is unclear what these casings are made of. Traditionally they would be intestines but they can be made out of collagen, cellulose and plastic - although those are not normally edible and are used for goods like salami which are peeled off.

My recommendations:

Hellers is a major sausage manufacturer in New Zealand so I commend them for listening to their consumers and providing a product which can assure us that the pigs are not treated cruelly and which has such a high percentage of real meat. It also has no pork flavourings and opts for herbs and yeast to give and extra flavour boost. Previously we had to go to local butchers to get products like this, so it is good to see them available in supermarkets at last.

* A recent column reviewed Alu Methi, an Indian-style potato curry. This product is presently not sold in many supermarkets but is available at New World Victoria Park.

Highlights

* Contains 84 per cent pork meat unlike many other sausages on the market.
* Uses herbs and yeast for flavouring instead of artificial "meat" flavourings.
* Uses vegetables to fill the sausage out rather than soy protein.

Do you have a food product you would like to feature in Wendyl Wants to Know? Email her at wendylwantstoknow@gmail.com with your suggestions.

- NZ Herald

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