You might have seen a lot in the press last week surrounding the WHO meat report which revealed that eating processed meat can increase the risk of cancer. We believe it is always a good thing when there are accountable, qualified, respectable studies into meat. Anything that prompts debate and investigation into the meat industry is always a good thing.
If you know Muddy Boots, you’ll know that our shelves are as full of ‘popular meats’ as they are steaks and joints; we sell a lot of sausages, burgers, bacon, and so on, which are the main focus of the study.
I am pleased that the study addresses the contents of ‘processed meats’. It is often not the ‘processing’ so much as what the processing covers up. The history and origin of these lines was that they were designed to make cheaper or lesser cuts more palatable: the mincing made tougher cuts of meat or offal more tender and digestible, mixing herbs and seasoning in with it added flavour. This was the original ‘processed meat’ and it didn’t contain additives, preservatives, enhancers, binders, commercial food science and appallingly farmed meat. It was just a recipe.
Your meat supplier should be able to tell you the recipe of every product they stock. What’s in it, what’s the shelf life, are there any additives and preservatives in it – and so on.
Our sausages, for example, have a shorter life than some bread because they don’t contain preservatives. We take pork shoulder, mince it, mix the recipe (salt, pepper, potato starch, tomato puree, parsley, garlic) and then use our little sausage machine to feed the mix into natural casings (pork casings for pork sausage, lamb casings for non-pork sausages). These sausages only last 5 days. With potassium nitrates and other preservatives, we could get 9, 10, even 11 days’ life. We don’t use preservatives, we just have to cope with the short life. We don’t compromise on the recipe, we just accept – as our customers are happy to do as well – that certain products just don’t get to last longer. We make our sausages three days a week to try and offer the longest possible life to the shopper. This is one of the main reasons why we opened our own shop rather than supply Tesco. We can’t get a product to a supermarket shelf in less than three days. For short-life food, like minced meat products, one can’t supply them without using preservatives; they would have two days to sell it and even then that isn’t offering any life to the person in their fridge at home. So we just don’t supply them because we can’t. Our lines to Waitrose and Ocado have nine days on them and this is pressure enough on the wastage and the cost of needing to deliver to them twice a week to keep them stocked.
By contrast, our products are on our shelves in the time it takes to drive from our small factory in Leyton (about 35mins to allow for traffic!).
As a customer, it’s your responsibility to ask the questions. We blame food packaging and marketing but simply (and I understand idealistically) the only way to trust your supply is to ask them. If they can’t answer, don’t buy from them.
Please ask us:
1. Why is processed food bad for us?
2. What are the processes in your food production?
3. What’s the difference between cheap meat and good meat? And what’s the price difference?
4. Why does cured meat (charcuterie) contain nitrates – how much nitrate and how is it harmful to us?
5. What other questions do you think I should be asking you?
We’re happy to answer all of these questions, along with any others you might have about how we produce the meat you are purchasing to take home and feed your family, any time. You can contact us via email, follow us on twitter, phone us on 0208 245 4240 or of course pop into the shop from 9am – 9pm for a chat, 7 days.