What’s in a snack stick?

So what is a snack stick?  A snack stick is essentially a small, shelf-stable sausage.  It can be made out of any kind of meat.  (We use non-GMO, pasture-raised pork for Roam Sticks.) There can be many variations of the quality of meat, sugars used, and artificial ingredients found in them.  Here are three eye-opening revelations I had that would not be apparent to even the most health conscious consumer:

  1. Red dye is considered an “industry standard” for snack sticks.  That means that in can be in the casing of the stick, but not listed in the ingredients on the label.  This is a common practice and is a problem for many people who are trying to avoid artificial colors.  If your snack stick is unnaturally red, it probably is in the casing, even if you don’t see it listed anywhere on the product.
  2. Encapsulated Citric Acid is often used to make snack sticks shelf stable by lowering the Ph.  (The old fashion, and more timely, process of  stabilization is probiotic fermentation.  This traditional process is how summer sausages and salami used to be made, and is still used by some artisan processors. The natural fermentation and smoking process is how Roam Sticks are made.)  Encapsulated Citric Acid is made from citric acid with a hydrogenated oil coating. The coating prevents the citric acid from releasing in the meat during mixing and stuffing. A lot of people are trying to avoid hydrogenated oil because they are trans fats.  Trans Fats are now known for their negative impacts on human health.  Unfortunately, it is not required to label that snack sticks that use encapsulated citric acid contain trans fat.
  3. Ractopamine is a growth stimulant given to 60-80% of the hogs in this country.  It is in the class of drugs known as beta-agonists, which was originally designed to treat asthma and only adapted to animal production when it was discovered it causes increased lean muscle growth.  It is banned in 160 countries, including Russia and China, because of concerns over the human health effects of Ractopamine.  

There are many people trying to raise awareness about the right to know what is in your food.  To that I say, “Keep it up!”  If you don’t advocate to know what is in your food, no one will.

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