I love bacon. It’s one of life’s most wonderful pleasures. I love to eat it with eggs from pastured hens cooked sunny side up or over easy, in plenty of Kerrygold butter.
When you go to the store, there are many products on the shelves claiming to be healthy and natural. It’s overwhelming just how many there are, and confusing to the unaware consumer.
Applegate Organic & Natural Meats (formerly Applegate Farms) sells different meat products including sliced turkey, chicken, roast beef, ham, bacon, hot dogs, sausages, and salami. Yes, there are many other companies selling products claiming to be a healthy choice which really aren’t…or, facts about the product are concealed, and if you really knew the truth, you may change your mind about buying the product.
This brand happens to be one of those I keep seeing everywhere as one that many people seem to trust, even when many others are rejected. It’s a “compromise” brand that a lot of people seem to believe is better than many conventional meat products.
Their slogan “changing the meat we eat” implies that the meat they sell is different from other choices on the market. Their labels tell the consumer that their products:
- come from animals and birds receiving no antibiotics, no hormones
- are gluten and casein free (the proteins found in wheat and dairy that are highly irritating and indigestible to those who have digestive problems and sensitivity)
- are low-fat
- are “humanely raised”
For some years, I thought this brand was a better alternative than some. Unfortunately, there are times where I will buy the Applegate organic variety of meats. I either buy their bacon, or we don’t have bacon. Because we only have it once a week or so, it’s a compromise. But I don’t like it.
Where I live (Boise, ID), there are no better alternatives for traditionally cured meats such as ham, bacon, or salami. None of the local farmers around here are able to produce these meats without using some type of nitrate.
So, is Applegate really changing anything, or is it just an illusion?
What Dr. Weston A. Price learned about real food and healthy populations
One of the things many modern food companies – and the mainstream health system – try to convince us of is that we need less fat, cholesterol, and calories. If you look at the work of Dr. Weston A. Price, author of Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, he discovered in the 1930s by traveling the world that all healthy populations consumed TEN times the amount of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K2) from sustainable-raised animals and birds, raised in natural environments with no chemicals, pesticides, hormones or GMOs. People in these populations consumed a lot of animal fat – fatty meat, poultry, and fish, butter, lard, tallow, ghee, dairy products.
So, even though modern doctors and health experts tell us to avoid fat and cholesterol, this is false information. And the truth is coming out about this big lie; current research shows why health authorities have been wrong about this all along. Fat and cholesterol are extremely important for good health.
Dr. Price found no successful plant-based societies. Dr. Price never said vegetables weren’t good for us, just that there were no healthy societies that avoided meat or animal fat and thrived on plant-based foods. Dr. Price discovered the healthy populations consumed animal products and they also consumed properly prepared foods that were soaked, sprouted, fermented, and soured. That includes grains, dairy, nuts, soy, vegetables, meats, fish, and other foods. By and large, we don’t eat food like this today. It’s no wonder we have health and digestive issues that are so rampant.
Compare what Dr. Price found in the 1930s with how meat is raised today. Most meat comes from feedlots and factory farm environments. Are Applegate meats and poultry raised in feedlot environments? We don’t know for sure. But, even as the labeling goes, it’s possible to discern that Applegate isn’t as natural as they claim to be.
This post on Mark’s Daily Apple touches on this subject and mentions that an individual on the Paleohacks site contacted Applegate to learn more about their grassfed meat claim on the label, only to discover that when grassfed is not available from one of their farms, they use grain-fed beef.
Most grain-fed cattle are housed on feedlots. So the likelihood of the meat coming from a factory farm is definitely not out of the question. Even if those cattle spent the previous period of their lives on pasture, the fact that they were on a feedlot anywhere from 90-120 days before slaughter diminishes health benefits significantly.
Animals and birds slaughtered for Applegate products are “vegetarian fed” (excluding the “grass-fed” hotdogs and roast beef lunch meat, although we have no proof that these are actually grassfed and grass finished).
Vegetarian fed means the animals or birds consume soy, corn, and grains. Cattle are ruminants and are not designed to eat anything but grass, and a very SMALL amount of grains, if any, that might grow naturally in the pasture or field. When cattle eat these substances, it causes an acidic environment in their digestive tracts, creating inflammation and illness.
Cows, pigs, and poultry birds need open access to grazing, foraging, sunshine, and vital nutrients found in the outdoors from sun and eating grasses, plants, and for birds, eating worms and insects. This is why meat from healthy sources is so much higher in nutrients and in particular, the fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K2 – essential for all aspects of health including bone, cardiovascular, brain and nervous system, immunity, and digestion.
Many farmers use antibiotics, to “prevent” disease. But antibiotics don’t prevent disease. In fact, they make matters worse by weakening the immune system and causing yeast overgrowth and other problems. They also cause antibiotic-resistance. So, even though Applegate meats don’t contain antibiotics, the animals and birds are still fed inflammatory and disease-causing feed.
Pigs, chicken, turkeys, and other animals that are vegetarian fed – even if it is organic, are still eating soy, corn, and possibly some grains. The U.S. currently grows and cultivates a huge amount of grain, soy and corn crops for the purposes of feeding livestock.
Many of the crops grown for animal feed come from GMO sources. There are currently no labeling laws for GMOs. Some Applegate products are not organic, and many of them are labeled “Natural” even though they are fed GMOs. Residue from these feeds are passed from animal to human when you consume feedlot meats (dairy and eggs too, for that matter) from these sources.
Even if GMOs didn’t exist, animals and birds fed soy, organic or not, are not going to be healthy. Soy is highly processed, contains a lot of estrogen, is a goitrogen (thyroid and hormone damaging), and is a nutrient inhibitor and pulls or leaches minerals out of the body due to its phytic acid content. These kinds of diets, coupled with not enough exposure to the outdoors and sunshine cause a nutritional imbalance in the meat and poultry. These meats end up with higher Omega 6 fatty acids – currently what people in developed countries such as the U.S. have too much of in their diets. This causes inflammation and disease in the body of animals or birds, and those consuming their meat, and subsequently, those consuming it.
Most Applegate Meat products contain hidden MSG. Carageenan, another name for MSG used by the food industry, is a highly processed food additive that comes from seaweed, but by no means resembles the naturally occurring glutamate that occurs in plants. This substance is formally classified as a potential carcinogen to human beings by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization).
Read this post The ingredient allowed in organic food that can cause cancer from The Healthy Home Economist about carageenan.
Nitrates and nitrites are used by the industrial food industry in meats to “cure” and preserve them, for longer shelf life and prevent the development of Clostridium Botulinum, the bacterium which causes botulism. Applegate packaging claims to have “no nitrates”, and yet they use this ingredient in many of their meats such as hotdogs, turkey, bacon, and ham.
Celery root or celery juice powder, used in Applegate products, is still a nitrate even if it’s not the synthetic sodium nitrate. Plant concentrates of natural nitrates are even higher than the synthetic, because they are compounded and isolated in a laboratory to include more nitrates than you would naturally get from just eating a stalk of celery. Do you know how many stalks of celery you’d have to eat to get the amount of natural nitrates in an Applegate serving of meat? A lot! You’d never eat that much at once.
Here’s what Weston A. Price Foundation has to say about natural nitrates/nitrites:
“As far as your body’s chemistry is concerned and for the curing process, a nitrate is a nitrate is a nitrate. It doesn’t matter if it is a chemically produced nitrate or nitrate from celery juice powder. So the notion that uncured bacon has no added nitrates or nitrites is completely false advertising; on the contrary, they are loaded with nitrates.
Now here’s where it starts to get a little crazy. There is no way to gauge how much nitrate is in celery juice powder. Conventional bacon production uses chemical nitrate so they know exactly how much is added to the pork for curing, based on parts per million. In fact when chemical nitrates are utilized the FDA and USDA mandate how much the processor can put into the bacon, how little they can put in and how much is left over. However because celery juice powder is considered a natural additive, there are no restrictions or mandates to follow. It’s as though the nitrates were never added. When it comes to how much nitrate is being added to uncured bacon with celery juice it’s a complete crapshoot. It’s a loophole that gives the meat producers one less inspector looking over their shoulder but leaves the door wide open for possible health issues.
In 2010, Cook’s Illustrated tested different types of bacon and found that two brands of “nitrate-free” bacon had significantly more nitrates than their conventional counterparts. The residual levels in the “uncured” bacons tested were all above the allowed levels in the conventional way of processing. So the very same nitrate level that everyone is trying to avoid by purchasing the uncured bacon is above, sometimes well above, that contained in the conventional brands.”
If the meat cures for long periods of time – such as salami and other cured meat products that cure for anywhere from a month up to a year, over that time, sodium nitrites convert to harmless nitric oxide (NO). This leaves only residual amounts of nitrites. With uncured meats, no extended curing process occurs. When you eat uncured meats, you receive a full dose of of sodium nitrite because these meats go from the processing facility to the grocery store and then to your kitchen. Higher amounts of nitrates are naturally found in uncured bacon via celery juice powder. So what is actually happening is that you consume large and dangerous amounts of sodium nitrites.
Some people have experienced an adverse reaction called cyanosis. Cyanosis occurs when a lack of oxygen in the blood is present. Symptoms include a bluish tint to the skin, feeling as though you cannot breathe, and even feelings of death. Unless there is some underlying issue such a blood clot or related problem, after eliminating the suspected cause of the problem – bacon or other meat with the celery root powder in it – people’s symptoms disappear.
“Cyanosis caused by ingesting sodium nitrite or nitrite containing food has been reported throughout medical literature (Aquanno, Chan & 8 Dietzler, 1981; Bakshi, Fahey & Pierce, 1967; Barton, 1954; Bradberry, Gazzard & Vale, 1994; Harvey, Cave & Chanwai, 1976; Oppé, 1951; Simon, 1966; Walley & Flanagan, 1987; Wilson, 1976).”
A similar thing occurs when you drink a glass of juice. You are getting the juice of 8-10 oranges, but no nutrients, it’s all sugar. When you eat Applegate meats with natural nitrates (celery powder), you are getting the effect of compounded nitrates that you’d eat from a lot more celery than you’d ever consume at one time. This is not natural, and the food industry persists in using these tactics to fool consumers into thinking they are doing something better for themselves by eating these products instead of others on the market which are probably about the same. In this case, the compounded nitrates from celery powder are actually worse.
Here’s a New York Times article about celery powder used in preserving commercial meats. While I don’t agree with some of the commentary in this article about salt or saturated fats, I do agree with their overall assessment that nitrates in any form are harmful to human health. Apparently, some of the companies in this article (Organic Prairie) attempted to sell the same product to people without any nitrates or celery juice powder and no one wanted them.
The best way to cure meat is with salt, the traditional method that has been used for thousands and thousands of years by many populations on the planet. These meats are delicious and people have consumed them for a long, long time with no ill effects.
Don’t let mainstream food producers fool you with slick marketing and label claims. Applegate claims to be a more natural choice, but when you look at their ingredients and realize just what’s in their products, it becomes plain that their food is just as processed and unnatural as many other products on the market.
If you want to learn more about how to find good, local foods from sustainable producers, read Questions to Ask Your Farmer – Know What’s in Your Food!
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