As consumers become more conscious about the processed food industry’s ploys to get us to buy their products, they are ever more clever about the ways they promote their merchandise. Since the public has made the demand for organic, chemical free foods with labels one can understand, Big Food has been steadily supplying our demand.
But how are they doing it? Sure, we now have American “organic meats” we can buy with seemingly benign labels. However, one must understand that Big Food, the FDA, Monsanto, and even the USDA all work together. They are constantly redefining what organic, preservative free, unprocessed, and even raw on the labels really mean.
The end result is that they can write the labels saying one thing, when in fact, by “definition” there are many no-no’s contained within these products. This is because in actuality, all chemicals are derived from nature.
Applegate’s founder, Stephen McDonnell, states that his mission is to “change the meat we eat… by that we mean making good meat − the kind that’s raised humanely without antibiotics and hormones − accessible to as many people as possible.”
Having grown up in the 1950s Stephen was used to eating meat at every meal. But when he went to college he became a vegetarian because of concerns about nitrites, preservatives, chemicals, inhumane treatment of animals, and so on. But, he still craved meat! Then one day he discovered nitrite-free bacon, and that has been the foundation of Applegate since he started the company in the early 1990s.
Today Applegate markets many processed meat products that are presumably “healthy” because they are nitrite free, hormone free, antibiotic free, and they treat their animals humanely. McDonnell says he believes consumers should not be afraid to read the labels before they purchase and consume food. I agree with this philosophy and because I’m in the habit of reading labels, I have discovered many hidden dangers in Applegate’s ingredient lists.
Are Applegate Meats Truly Healthy?
With the growing concern for consuming clean meat, many people have turned to Applegate to provide them with guilt-free meats that they can feel good about eating. This has helped Applegate to grow into a large company that support approximately 1,000 farms that raise grass-fed meat without dangerous hormones, antibiotics, and so on.
Nevertheless, Applegate has both an organic line and an all-natural line of products that could be hiding something. The reason for suspicion is that there doesn’t seem to be any preservatives. Plus, the natural line has nearly the same ingredients as the organic line.
Furthermore, Hormel purchased Applegate in 2015 and they are known to be one of the worst factory farm operations using feedlot animals. Hormel now owns a company that claims their meat is safe to eat and naturally grown. Stephen McDonnell has promised that Applegate will not change because it will be independently operated. Still, taking a closer look at the potential pitfalls of Applegate’s meats will help health conscious individuals make informed choices about what they eat.
A Closer Look at 4 of Applegate Meats Most Popular Products
Just how do they preserve the meat to keep it that pretty pink color with its delicious signature flavor? In this article I will focus on four of Applegate’s most popular meat products to red flag areas of concern. This will help you understand what you’re really eating. I have investigated the great organic uncured beef hot dogs, uncured good morning bacon, slow cooked ham, and chicken nuggets to expose the truth about the harmful ingredients in these meats.
Ingredient Description: Organic Grass-Fed Beef, Water. Contains Less Than 2% Of The Following: Sea Salt, Organic Spices, Organic Dehydrated Garlic, Organic Dehydrated Onion, Organic Paprika and Celery Powder.
One individual from PaleoHacks asked Applegate’s customer service if all the beef is grass fed. Applegate’s customer service representative admitted that if they can’t get grass fed then they go with grain fed which usually means they are from the factory farmed livestock. These animals are kept indoors and fed contaminated animal feed filled with GMO grains, bones, pesticides, toxic microorganisms, blood, feces, industrial waste, and worse.
In contrast, natural, pasture-raised cattle are in the sunshine all day long breathing in fresh air and producing the oil soluble vitamins in their muscles which control disease naturally. These are healthy meats.
So, when the factory is able to get organic grass fed meat that’s when you might actually get the organic hotdog you purchased. However, the company can still label the meat as being all organic when in reality you don’t know if it has been compromised.
This is why you want beef from cattle that are both grass fed and grass finished. Now we have a new term added to the ingredient processing description. This demonstrates that there is a lot of sleight of hand going on in the food processing business. “Grass finished” refers to the revelation provided by a meat factory whistleblower that the animals begin in the pasture but end in the feedlots a few months before they are slaughtered or “harvested.”
Three months before slaughtering they are moved to the meat factory where they are fed grain or vegetarian feed which is genetically modified. This usually means corn and soy that are contaminated with pesticides, herbicides, microorganisms, fungus, and mold. This causes the animals to become inflammatory and bloated, producing excess fat in the attempt to detoxify. The animals are miserable and become very sick. At the meat packaging facility, the products are loaded with a preservative “mix” that is meant to cover up the impurities. Unfortunately the final “mix” also destroys all the good from being grass fed in the first place.
Even if it is not GMO feed, cows are not meant to eat corn, soy, and other grains except what they find growing naturally in the pasture. When they eat the animal-feed grains and are denied adequate sunlight they become sick and their meat is diseased. This makes the organic claims deceptive.
On the other hand, if they are grass finished then the animals get to stay in the pasture until shipped for slaughter. Unless of course it is a cold snowy winter and there is no pasture to be had. Then they also get moved indoors but they can still be grass finished. This can be done if the farmer has stored grass bales (hay) for the animals to eat over winter instead of commercial soy and corn animal feed that is usually from GMO sources.
Why Meat Quality Matters if You Have Cancer
This is relevant because the overall health of the animal will determine what benefits you will receive from consuming its meat. If you have cancer, or are trying to prevent cancer, and you’re going to eat meat, you want to eat the highest quality, nutrient-dense products possible.
If the cow is not fed a proper natural diet and allowed to graze in the sunshine soaked pasture, you won’t be getting the vitamin D, E, K2, and A (carotenoids) that organic grass fed cows contain. These fat soluble vitamins contribute to healthy bones and teeth. They also support the nervous system, brain, and digestive and immune systems.
These are very important for the meat eater’s overall health. However, even the healthiest meat can become carcinogenic if processed in a way that contributes to the formation of carcinogenic compounds. I will elaborate on this in a moment.
Nitrates/Nitrites in “Natural” Celery Powder
According to the ingredient list, there are no preservatives in this organic uncured beef hot dog and bacon. Unless you are in the KNOW you would be deceived into believing that these are a healthy choice. But think about it. This is supposed to be meat… is it frozen? No, it is in the refrigerated section of the processed meats at the grocery store. So what’s keeping the meat from turning grey or becoming infested with pathogens? Preservatives in the form of “natural” celery powder.
How is celery powder made? The juice is extracted, dehydrated, and powdered. This results in a concentrated form of celery juice. When it is added to the meat mush that makes up the hot dog, it keeps it from turning grey and adds NITRATES. (Plus they are likely not using organic celery, which means the powder is high in pesticides.)
In the Journal of Food Protection released in 2011, it was revealed that natural and organic meats preserved with celery powder, which is naturally high in nitrates, actually contain the same or up to 10 times higher the amounts of nitrates/nitrites.
According to the President of Applegate Farms, Linda Boardman, tests reported that the nitrates/nitrites in their meat is the same as conventional processed meats. But wait a minute, the package boldly states that it is nitrate/nitrite free! Well, until you get to the very fine print that states… “except what is naturally occurring in the sea salt and celery powder.”
How many people read the fine print? People don’t have time to get a magnifying glass out and scan a label. It is very aggravating that they would have to in the first place. But here is the story about nitrates and nitrites…
Nitrates and nitrites are natural components of celery, leafy greens, and sea salt. They are also in most vegetables. This is actually good, because the human body uses nitrates to convert to nitric oxide (NO) which is important for maintaining a balanced blood pressure and some anti-inflammatory benefits.
So, why are nitrates under fire for being dangerously unhealthy? Because when meat is cooked at high temperatures − 250 degrees Fahrenheit and up − the nitrates/nitrites convert to nitrosamines after naturally combining with the amines in the meat. This is the carcinogenic aspect of the formula. Nitrosamines contribute to significant free radical damage and have been linked to colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, and stomach cancers.
Therefore, if the meat is precooked or if you cook it on the grill/microwave/stove you are transforming the meat into a cancerous product. This happens by causing the nitrosamines to form and adding carcinogenic acrylamides to the mix. Children are particularly susceptible to nitrosamine poisoning and have been known to acquire pediatric brain tumors and esophageal cancer.
On the other hand, vegetables contain vitamin C which inhibits nitrates. But cooking destroys the vitamin C so you are back to ground zero again. However, consuming raw vegetables protects you from nitrosamine formation and they have the vitamin C intact, so you are covered on two fronts there. It should be noted that even though nitrates are found in most vegetables, they are healthy because of the presence of vitamin C − unless you are cooking them at high temperatures.
Furthermore, if the meat is uncured there is a problem because the concentrations of nitrates are much higher. This is especially the case when using celery powder and sea salt since there is no regulation on the amounts to add for natural ingredients. They have to use preservatives to protect the meat from botulism, a deadly pathogen that attacks meat. Herein lies the answer to how the nitrate problem is persisting in the natural and organic uncured meats.
Let us move on now to two very popular products: bacon and deli ham.
Ingredient Description: Applewood-smoked with zero guilt. Leaner pork shoulder = 33% less fat. Humanely raised hogs, with no antibiotics or hormones administered and no nitrates or chemical preservatives, ever.
✓Casein Free ✓Dairy Free ✓Gluten Free ✓Low Fat
Ingredient Description: Uncured Organic Not preserved. No nitrates or nitrates added (except for those naturally occurring in sea salt, celery juice and celery powder). No antibiotics used (pork never given antibiotics or animal by-products. Vegetarian grain-fed). Humanely raised (pork raised on sustainable family farms in a stress-free environment that promotes natural behavior and socialization). Gluten & casein free. US inspected and passed by Department of Agriculture. USDA organic. Pork raised exclusively on certified organic grains. Fully cooked. We’re anti-antibiotics. Certified organic by Quality Assurance International
Smoked = PAH and Grilled = HCA
When meat is smoked it is placed in large containers that are filled with burning wood that creates the characteristic smoky flavor. Unfortunately it also produces polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that penetrate the meat and remain there. Research has proven that PAHs are carcinogenic.
When you further roast or grill the meat for your main entree you are adding acrylamides and another potent carcinogen known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs). These two processes lead to colorectal, stomach, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers. Even though the smell and taste is desirable, it is safer to avoid grilling and roasting processed meats.
These toxic substances tax your immune system and cause inflammatory actions while the body works desperately to remove the poison. The barbecue picnic literally increases your risk of cancer. I know it is uncomfortable to learn these things because it seems that all the fun of summer parties is being thwarted. But there is no fun in cancer − especially for children.
Vegetarian Fed = GMO
“Vegetarian feed” is generally composed of soy and corn grown from Monsanto’s Roundup ready seeds. These are genetically modified. Millions of acres of land in the United States and Mexico are dedicated to producing crops for animal feed. Monsanto has sold the farmers the idea that genetically modified seeds produce better, stronger plants.
But the drawback is in the fact that they must be heavily sprayed with pesticides and herbicides to destroy the pests and weeds that accompany large scale commercial farming. Unfortunately the plants and soil soak up these chemicals. The air carries the poison, and the water is also contaminated. This pollution penetrates everything for miles around these commercial farms.
When the soil is laden with the chemicals, good bacteria is destroyed, and bees (our important pollinators) are killed. Organic crops can also be contaminated if they are near the commercial farms and in the path of the wind that carries the chemicals. But Monsanto isn’t telling you the downside of this process. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
GMO technology is actually altering the soil bacteria by encouraging the growth of pathogenic bacteria. This bacteria attaches itself to the intestinal walls of humans and alters the DNA of the good bacteria needed to digest food (probiotics). Moreover, these GMO bacteria chew holes in the intestinal walls causing leaky gut syndrome while preventing appropriate digestion and absorption.
The pesticide and herbicides that accompany GMO plants make matters worse by carrying those toxins into the digestive tract further polluting the body. So the cells are not getting nutrients but rather they are getting altered DNA that supports the pathogens and toxic chemicals that flood the body. And at the same time this weakens the overwhelmed immune system. This eventually leads to cancer, hormone imbalance, increased aggression, inability to concentrate, adrenal fatigue, and more.
Basically the whole gamut of chronic disease is coming from the changes made in the digestive system promulgated by the nonfood we are consuming. GMOs are a serious problem but “Big Food” and “Big Pharma” don’t want us to understand that because if we really “get it,” then we will stop consuming their poisons and demand change.
Well, I guess a large enough number of people are getting it because the food industry is becoming ever more deceptive. There are many voices trying to downplay the dangers of GMOs − but don’t be fooled. They are bad. They are destroying our soil, water and air and making it nearly impossible for wholesome natural food production. Additionally, with Monsanto buying up farmland in America and many other parts of the world, there is less land fit for quality food production. If they are not stopped now, there will be a widespread famine and only the very elite will be able to get food with real nutrients still in them.
Cured vs. Uncured Meats
Applegate pridefully boasts that its meats are uncured or unprocessed. They make it look like uncured meat is a healthy choice. On the contrary, in fact, curing meats is a means of preservation that our forefathers have been using since people started eating meat. The optimum and most natural way to cure meat is to use salt and dehydration.
So if they don’t preserve the meat by curing it the way our ancestors did, how do they preserve them? Applegate claims they don’t use any preservatives which makes me ask, “Why don’t they cure their meats? Is it because the meat isn’t healthy enough to survive curing without preservatives and chemicals to ward off bacteria?” Just food for thought.
Ingredient Description: Chicken, Water. Contains Less than 2% of The Following: Corn Starch, Salt, Extract of Oregano. Breaded With: Rice Flour, Water, Tapioca Starch, Corn Starch, Salt. Contains Less than 2% of The Following: Spices, Extractive of Paprika, Extractive of Turmeric, Garlic Powder, Ground Celery, Onion Powder and Black Pepper. Breading Set In Expeller Pressed Canola Oil.
Expeller Pressed Organic Canola Oil
This ingredient, expeller pressed organic canola oil, implies that there is a canola seed that is organically grown and is cold pressed to produce canola oil. There is no such thing! The seed is rapeseed and is not meant for human consumption. But through an ingeniously deceptive method, rapeseed is converted into the product from Canada dubbed canola oil. This oil causes heart disease, diabetes, chronic inflammation, leaky gut, and cancer. The way it is processed and refined at high temperatures, to produce more volume, causes this oil to contain carcinogenic acrylamides, hydrogenated fats, and trans fats.
Reading the description on the label boasting of the great flavor from a totally unnatural product is very deceptive, thus making me suspicious of all their natural and organic meats. Canola oil is now 90% GMO according to the Weston A. Price Foundation. It is also high in omega 3 fatty acids that are sensitive to high temperatures − causing them to become rancid.
It is because of this intrinsic property that the manufacturing process includes deodorizing, bleaching, and degumming. The refining destroys the omega 3 components resulting in a toxic, rancid oil that has been covered up with chemicals and deodorizing techniques. The health risks associated with this production include increased risk of cancer, delayed growth, blood platelet abnormalities, and free radical damage. This is the reason why so many people consuming the SAD (Standard American Diet) are sick, fat, and tired.
Organic Chicken Nuggets Experiment
Melanie Warner, author of “Pandora’s Lunchbox,” did an experiment on Applegate’s organic chicken nuggets for part of her book. She wanted to see what would happen if she placed the nuggets in a partially opened plastic bag and left it on the counter for a few weeks. She also did the same with non-organic chemically preserved nuggets.
The results were rather revolting. The organic nuggets turned to mush with no recognizable form and turned a dark color after two weeks. The inorganic preserved nuggets from Bell & Evans maintained their form but had a noxious smell. When she contacted Applegate to get some answers, Chris Ely (one of the founders) stated that they do not use additives and binders like other meat processors so it’s possible for them to dissolve in this fashion.
How are nuggets made that they can dissolve into mushy slime? I don’t think they are using tender chicken breast. One whistle blower from a meat packaging company shares some very unappetizing information about how the meat is turned into hot dogs and nuggets.
Some ingredient lists reveal interesting terms about how the meat is processed. They admit that the meat is changed from recognizable meat to “meat gelatin” and offer another clue to the inappropriate elements by stating there are animal byproducts in this recipe. Meat gelatin and animal byproducts are two things you don’t want to eat. They come from the feet, beak, blood, ligament, and tendons and various other inedible parts of the animals.
Unsanitary Practices at Meat Packaging Plants
The food production chain has many points where contamination can pose a problem. One meat packing whistleblower (Coleman meat packaging region) gave a detailed inside story about the practices of meat processing manufacturers. Thanks to him, this helps us, the consumer, understand how meat manufacturers produce the food we buy in grocery stores.
The whistleblower shared some gory details about meat machining. Hotdogs and chicken nuggets are two products that undergo this process in many cases. The meat is separated from the bone by forcing it through small holes in metal plates whereby it turns to a mushy slimy liquid. It is then run in hot temperatures and left to sit in large vats for hours. Afterwards it is supposed to be treated with a preservative mix, product coloring, and formed into the particular shape by pouring it into molds. Chlorine wash is also used to bleach the discoloration caused by meats left in trucks or on docks in warm weather causing dangerous pathogens to infest it. These leave toxic substances that cannot be cooked out of the meats. These cause cancer.
The point is, just because the growers follow the rules doesn’t mean the processing plants follow the rules. And just because it is stamped with the inspected by the USDA seal doesn’t mean it was inspected or that it’s healthy. It can be inspected and allowed to pass through without any concern for safety. That is the problem here. Some of these processed, organic, high priced meats are bursting with dangerous pathogens waiting to set up camp in your body − polluting it with their poison and genetic material. This is overwhelming for the immune system which is one reason for the epidemic of chronic disease in western societies.
What Are Healthy Alternatives to Processed Meats?
US Grass-Fed Wellness Meats offer some special options in meat. This company is still relatively small so they know how the meat is raised, packaged, and delivered. They seem to have better control over their products. They also use fennel as a preservative which has been used since ancient times as an antibacterial both for chewing fresh and marinating in the meat. This protects it from pathogens. However, if the meat is being cooked at high temperatures, all the goodness is compromised. So keep this in mind when you are preparing your food.
On the other hand, truly healthy alternatives to processed foods from commercial grocery chains is to go to the farm where cattle, cows, and chickens are being pastured. If you can form a co-op of neighbors and friends that are likeminded about getting truly organic, open pasture, grass fed and finished animals, then you can control the additives in your meat. Most of the problem comes from packaging plants and having to guarantee the shelf life of the food. This demands that preservatives are added which prevent pathogens from contaminating the products.
Again, get to know the farmers that have good ethics in producing meat, and a sanitary butcher that will package it in meat paper and freeze it immediately. Then of course you have to bring it to the co-op members, still frozen, and put it in their freezers promptly upon receiving it. This way it does not need any preservatives. Afterwards, prepare the food yourself, and avoid hot dogs and chicken nuggets. Make chicken tenders instead and grind your own sausage mix. Also curing the meat properly will eliminate the nitrates as mentioned previously. Your health is worth it to take the time to safely prepare your food.
Eating Low on the Food Chain
Even if you are able to obtain meats from an organic farmer with free range, pastured animals, it is still advisable to limit your consumption of meat. When you consume large amounts of meat you are eating high on the food chain. We live in a polluted environment, therefore it is crucial to protect our bodies from toxic build-up. Eating high on the food chain (other animals) causes our bodies to be open to compounded environmental toxins and therefore vulnerable to chronic illnesses. In civilizations where meat is consumed sparingly, there has been a strong link to disease-free longevity. It is important to note that commercially processed meats don’t exist in these societies.
So what to do? Look for the artisanal sources, meet the farmers that are truly organic without compromise, and learn to make your own so you KNOW what’s in the foods you are eating.
I hope this article was helpful in clarifying some of the confusing issues about processed meats from organic and natural sources. This article is not meant to tell you what to do, or what is right or wrong. The intention here is to help you become aware of commercially produced food items. These products require preservatives to prevent contamination during their shelf life. It is important that you are informed about the nature of those preservatives so you are not deceived. Only then can you make fully educated decisions and if you have any reaction after you eat a particular product you will at least know where to look for the possible problem. Then, of course, you can avoid it in the future.