What's in the Sausages You're Eating?

It's not uncommon for us to be asked what exactly goes into the sausages we make.

After all, it's well known that sausage production originated ages ago as a technique for making full use of the parts of a slaughtered animal that could not be used in any other manner. Now there's a scary thought.

The truth is, what a sausage is made out of depends a lot on who is making the sausages. While regulations exist to make sure the sausages we eat are safe and adhere to a minimum standard set out by the government, the fact is that all sausages are not created equal on the quality front.

So here are a few things you might want to keep in mind the next time you are thinking of purchasing sausages:

Sausage are made from ground meat, herbs, spices, seasonings, and salt. Most often the meat in sausages is pork, but they can also be made from poultry, beef, veal, lamb, or wild game. Some specialty sausages contain blood, organ meat, or seafood. There are even vegetarian sausages.

Most neighborhood butchers choose high-quality meats when they make their sausages and incorporate spices from recipes that have proven popular with their customers. This is reflected in the taste, smell, and overall quality of the sausages they sell.

Commercial sausages, on the other hand, are mass-produced meat products of highly variable quality. In addition to meat, they can contain something called "meat by-products", which is a category that includes any edible part of a healthy, slaughtered animal that is not meat. Contrary to popular rumor, sausages sold in Canada cannot include an animal's snout, lips, scalp or ears.

Commercial sausages can also include meat extenders (protein the comes from a source other than meat), sweeteners (sugar, dextose, or corn syrup), fillers (bread and other starched-based products, yeast, eggs, milk, or vegetable material), preservatives (salt, nitrates/nitrites), flavor enhancers (natural and artificial flavoring, MSG), binders, food coloring, lactic acid, water, and even bone particles as long as they are less than 2 mm (only when mechanical meat separators are used, which is most of the time in commercial sausages).

The fat content of sausages can legally be as high as 40% in Canada.

Sometimes sausages are sold as patties or even as ground meat. More often they are sold in casings that can be made from several different substances. Those casings used by neighborhood butchers are often made from the cleaned intestines of cattle, sheep, or hogs. Collagen and/or cellulose casings are also commonly used. It is not uncommon for commercial sausages to be made using edible plastic casings.

So that is why when we are asked what we make our sausages out of, we proudly say that we use no fillers, binders, extenders or meat by-products. We use only natural ingredients and high quality meats and we are very conscious of the amount of fat in our products. All of our sausages are gluten-free and many of our sausages are significantly lower in cholesterol than the sausages available commercially. Some of our sausages (and other meat products) also contain Omega-3 fatty acids.