May 23, 2007

Nitrite Free and Tasty Too: Applegate Farms Lunch Meat

Yes, it's an unsolicited Product Review. And not even a grouchy one.

Note: be careful readers, whenever a blogger is suspiciously enthusiastic about a particular brand-name product. Sneaky sites like this one are out there providing financial incentives for some of these rave reviews. If Crabby ever decides to go over to the Dark Side, she will certainly warn you first so that you can begin ignoring her when she recommends things.

Anyway, Crabby was looking for a subject for a quick easy post this afternoon and realized she'd just eaten one for lunch. She's been looking for nitrite free turkey or chicken lunch meat and has tried several varieties, but frankly, they all tasted weird. Sort of like liverwurst mated with tofu and marinated in plastic.

But at last, she's found one she likes: Applegate Farms Organic Smoked Chicken. This is not to say it tastes like fresh chicken; it tastes like lunch meat. But Crabby means that in a good way: sometimes you feel like that slightly junky, sweet, salty flavor you grew to love if you were, as Crabby was, raised on WonderBread, Best Foods, and Oscar Meyer.

So why Nitrite free? Well, damned if Crabby didn't have a surprisingly hard time trying to answer that question. She's read, she swears, thousands of articles over the years saying you should avoid nitrites; they're a known carcinogen; they'll give you stomach cancer and all kinds of terrible things.

However, when Crabby went to her usual Reputable Resources to find a convincing and definitive link, everyone seemed to get all wishy-washy all of a sudden. The only sources who seemed to have firm opinions had some sort of horse in the race: an anti-nitrite book to sell, perhaps, or a financial connection to the processed meat industry. (She did find this, which at least sounded like it had some research behind it, but she thought there'd be a whole lot more out there).

Does this mean Crabby is going to return to unrestrained nitrite eating? No, though she has to admit to a fondness for the occasional Polish Sausage or Pepperoni Pizza. And Crabby knows that a few minutes on google does not constitute real research, so she is going to assume all those studies she read are out there somewhere. In the meantime, there's Applegate Farms and their tasty luncheon meat. But Crabby will keep her eyes open for any new research that might shed some light on the subject.

And if you've just popped in and missed the previous post, don't forget to go there to vote in the very important reader poll! Why is it important? Because Crabby will be embarrassed if hardly anyone votes and everyone can see she's unpopular! Plus, you have to find out whether Krispy Kremes cause Leprosy.


  1. Oh Crabby, you are right to avoid nitrates. In my nutrition class (I am going to school for nutrition) I was learned that if you consume nitrates only once a week, you have 25% more risk of developing cancer. At one point the FDA was going to ban it but, the food companies won out on that one. Shelf life on nitrate free meats goes down quite a bit.

  2. Dear Crabby,
    Having unenthusiastically avoided nitrates when actually thinking about their heinous consequences, I'm thrilled that I may have possibly made the correct decision about avoiding those deadly additives.
    Please note that I responsibly checked the f*cking links because now I feel duty-bound to do so. (In re freakin' poll!)
    Uhn, you might want to check the "this one" site unless you're punking your readers. I'm exhausted and could have missed any nuance!

  3. Crabby, what exactly do you think will keep you preserved to old age? It's gotta be the marischino cherries and hot dogs. Do you seriously want to rot? Eat 'em often. You might consider liver with Cheetos and onions too.
    I'll outlast you all.

  4. Yes, nitrites are bad for you and cause cancer. I've read this numerous times myself though can't supply a link to back it up.

    About the only preservative-free sliced lunch meats I've found are the meatless ones made from soy and/or wheat protein. Sigh.
    Nothing wrong with them, of course. They're tasty enough. I just can't eat too much wheat gluten.

  5. I've convinced myself, because I'm sure I read it somewhere, that if I eat a side of citrus fruit with my nitrites, somehow the world and the additives in my body become balanced. I have no idea if this is true, but I've been doing it for so long, I *think* it is.

  6. Samantha--
    I'm glad to hear you learned the same thing--and I think nitrites are even worse than nitrates. I was just surprised that I couldn't find better research to back it up. (Should of spent a bit more time, though).

    Hello there! Are you two the same anonymous or two different ones? Thank you so much for visiting and commenting.

    Just to clarify: no, please don't start clicking the links! I want you to like having them there, and to think that you're going to click on them someday, and to be glad you're going to a smart blog that bothers with them. But, no please just stay here and trust that something vaguely scientific lies behind all of Crabby's rambling.

    And to the 2nd anonymous--Good point. Plus, even if we die earlier of cancer, we all want to look "well-preserved" when we go. (I'll pass on the liver, but mmm, cheetos).

    Thanks Leah! Thats a bummer about the wheat gluten--at least for a bread and pizza and cupcake lover like me. (Whole wheat, of course, except for the cupcakes!)

    You indeed are a smart cookie. I actually came across something like that in my shallow research efforts (no link of course). I think consuming stuff that has antioxidants does mitigate some of the nitrite Evilness, and maybe there was something specific about citrus being good.

    But then I also believe that consuming a portion of broccoli before or after a cupcake erases the cupcake calories.

  7. I'm not giving up my Oscar Mayer! A balogna sandwich with two slices and mustard and Ruffles between two slices of Wonder White...mmmmmmm

  8. Dawno, you're making me hungry!

    Though my weakness was not the Oscar Meyer balogna but the weiners, uncooked, straight from the package.

  9. Dear Crabby....wish I had stopped nitrates sooner. I grew up on sandwiches for lunch every day and guess how many are lunchmeat...oh and don't forget Subway when you're out. Anyways, been having blood in urine for about 18 mos now. Very sporadic sometimes 6 mo apart...but much more often now..weeks... no other pain or symptoms...could be bladder cancer...won't know till i can get in to specialist to test.
    IVP and ultrasound are normal.

  10. they say to avoid nitrites when you are expecting...if its so bad you that it can seriously harm your fetus then imagine what else it is doing to all those less important parts... yuck!

  11. Here's just a few:

    1, Peters J, et al " Processed meats and risk of childhood leukemia (California, USA)" Cancer Causes & Control 5: 195-202, 1994.

    2 Sarasua S, Savitz D. " Cured and broiled meat consumption in relation to childhood cancer: Denver, Colorado (United States)," Cancer Causes & Control 5:141-8, 1994.

    3 Bunin GR, et al. "Maternal diet and risk of astrocytic glioma in children: a report from the children's cancer group (United States and Canada)," Cancer Causes & Control 5:177-87, 1994.

    4. Lijinsky W, Epstein, S. "Nitrosamines as environmental carcinogens," Nature 225 (5227): 2112, 1970.

  12. I'm not sure what to believe about nitrates/nitrites. Everything is so confusing. I'm not a big lunch meat person anyway but my son is. There doesn't seem to be many options out there for nitrate/nitrite free lunchmeats that actually taste decent. I know that both my grandparents (and hence my mom) on my mom's side ate lunchmeat, hotdogs, bacon, etc all the time. My grandfather did die of bladder cancer but he was also a smoker and tobacco chewer and the doc said the smoking caused the cancer. My mom also died of breast cancer but she was another smoker and unhealthy eater with no exercise routine. My grandmother lived until 75 with no cancer and she pretty much lived on OM bologna everyday for at least the last 10. I have to think part of the problems that come from nitrate/nitrites is the other unhealthy habits that people have that consume large amounts of processed meats.

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  14. Does this link count for describing the peril of sodium nitrate?

    Nitrates in Processed Meat

  15. I have to avoid nitrites and nitrates because they give me horrible horrible migraines and I choose not to go to the ER for relief on the off chance that I might get addicted to the ER's painkillers. Migraines really and truly suck.

  16. Oh yes, nitrates & nitrites are definitely big ones to avoid. The problem is all of the so-called "natural" lunchmeats out there that contain ultra-refined forms of celery juice. When you take away all of the good stuff in celery and leave only this one compound, it turns into...yep, nitrates. Very few, if any, lunchmeats out there are truly nitrate free, and the USDA needs to get on the ball and let the consumer know this.

    Even worse, manufacturers cannot control the amount of nitrates added through the concentrated celery juice as easily as when it is the further refined nitrates themselves, so Consumer Reports has tested levels of nitrates present in these so-called preservative-free foods (as Hormel claims) at or above levels of the regular variety. Don't believe me? Google it. Reliable information is out there. You can see for yourself.

    Applegate is the only company I've found that does happen to have a very few products that are truly nitrate free, but many of their products do contain celery juice (sometimes hidden under the "natural flavorings" term).


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