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organic living journey pork vs turkey

The following is part of an Organic Journey Guest Post Series, written by Amy a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.

First off, I have to take back every nasty thing I ever said about warehouse clubs.  We have been members of Costco for less than a month now, and I have to say, I have been blown away.  Are they perfect or perfectly healthy?  No, of course not, but they have so many healthier options at just base line good prices.  One thing that I am finding as I move towards more of a whole foods menu for the family is that my shopping patterns are changing.  I am far more aware of what the price per pound of pears are than I have ever been (they are in season now), and I am finding myself going to stores that have quality produce at the best price since that is the bulk of my grocery shopping.  So yeah, I’m a Costco fan.  Just had to get that off of my chest.  Now, time to talk turkey.

If I am standing in the meat section and see turkey bacon or pork bacon, I automatically think, “The turkey is healthier, but the pork probably tastes better.”  The more I journey though, the more I am seeing that appearances can be deceiving.  Want to evaluate turkey bacon, sausage, hot dogs and pepperoni with me?  Here we go.

As I started researching and reading dozens of ingredients listed in both pork and turkey products, I realized that many of the issues that plague pork products also plague turkey versions of those goodies.  Turkey bacon still has nitrites (whether chemically added or found in natural additives like celery powder).  Both types can have tons of chemicals added to them to create their flavor or can be found with real food ingredients.  You can get sausage with soy fillers and BHT, regardless of whether it is turkey or pork, and you can get it without.  The big deal about turkey versus pork comes down to sodium and saturated fat.

Now, I’m not going to dive fully into the whole fats controversy right now.  That’s a topic for another day.  Here’s the brief version.  Normally, turkey renderings of a pork product will have less saturated fat than the pork version.  Here are some opposing viewpoints to ponder.  My dad, who just had quadruple bypass surgery and goes to one of the leading cardiology groups in Atlanta was told to limit his daily saturated fat intake to prevent his arteries from clogging up again.  The flipside, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition did a study with over 300,000 participants on saturated fat and heart disease and determined that, “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD (coronary heart disease) or CVD (cardiovascular disease).”  (italics are added by me)  So yes, when I tackle fats we will look more into that; but if you are looking to limit your saturated fat intake, go with the turkey.

If you are looking to lower your salt intake you should read the labels!  I read in several places that typically, but not always, pork products have less salt than their turkey counterparts.  This is another time when label reading is essential because everywhere I looked, I found the opposite to be true.  Applegate’s turkey bacon has 200 mg of sodium for 28 g of bacon whereas, their pork bacon has 580 mg of sodium for 28 g of bacon.  Their reduced sodium pork bacon has 400 g of sodium for 28 g.  When you look at their sausage though, there is less salt in the pork than the turkey.  Good grief!  Could it be any less clear?

I have yet to see a healthy pepperoni in my stores, but for those of you with a food dehydrator, I’ve got a great recipe for a yummy pepperoni replacement. (And believe me, it is yummy.  There are many healthy alternatives that I give to my family that I find personally disgusting, but this one even passed my picky eater tastes.)  I got this recipe from a Bread Beckers’ class.  You are going to thinly and evenly (for dehydration purposes) slice 2-3 zucchinis.  Marinate these overnight in a light, but thorough coating of some olive oil, a little bit of salt and about a tablespoon of ground Roasted Red the Pepper Spread.  Please make sure to grind the spread, or it won’t turn out well.  Don’t ask me how I know.  After these have marinated, dehydrate them.  When you are ready to make some pizza, just put the pepperoni zucchini directly on the pizza.  The zucchini will rehydrate while the pizza is cooking, and it really is a good substitute for pepperoni!

I also learned from Bread Beckers that you can make your own sausage too by just seasoning ground beef.  I made sausage balls this way at Christmas, and we were pleasantly surprised.  No funky stuff to worry about at all!!  We have options to get the flavor we are craving and still make it healthy.

My Takeaways about Eating Processed Meats (like bacon, ham, deli meats, sausage, etc.)
1.  Eat it in moderation.  Surprisingly, everybody is saying this from Oscar Mayer to Applegate.  When I called Applegate about nitrites in processed meats, they sent me an email response that included this, “At Applegate, we maintain a commonsense approach to food.  Our philosophy is: ‘Eat Less Meat, But Better Meat.’  Naturally cured meats enjoyed in moderation can be part of a healthy diet.”

2.  You’ve got to read your labels.  Shocking, I know.  And believe me, I get it.  I’m shopping with three munchkins most days (one who is a squirmy, loud, two year old boy, need I say more?) and getting through the store with my groceries and sanity intact feels like a major accomplishment.  We’ve got to take time to stop and read.  If you can’t carve out time to stop and compare ingredients when you are in the store, Google is your friend.  You can google whatever brand name and type of product plus the word ingredients, and you will get a list of sites that can help you figure out what is in what you are buying.

3.  For those of us who have yet to find a local pig farmer and still want to eat some bacon now and then, let me recommend checking out these two brands: Jones Dairy Farm and Applegate.  These might be good baby step options for you.  If your store doesn’t carry them, check to see what kinds of options you do have.  If you don’t like what you see, kindly ask your store manager if they have ever considered the brands you are looking for.  Where there is demand, supply normally rises to the challenge.

From all I have learned about pork which also translates to all processed meats, my baby step is to read more labels and start limiting our processed meat intake.

What brand of sausage, bacon, hot dogs or pepperoni have you found that works for your family and what do you love about it?  Or, what is a quick and healthy protein that you serve your family for lunch?  I could use your help with ideas!

    • Mom2teenagers

      Glad to see I’m not the only person from the Midlands who travels to the nearest Costco! I’ll be so glad when they open in Columbia.

      • amysanders

        bad news, it isn’t jenny who is writing this post. it’s me. and i live in atlanta. :)

    • Janice

      Grab a couple of rotissorie chickens when you’re at Costco. Serve one for dinner (after Costco, who wants to cook?) and take all the meat off the second one. The meat makes great sandwiches, chicken salad, and casseroles. It’s actually cheaper than boiling chicken breasts. And the bones make the best chicken broth you’ve ever had!

      • amysanders

        if only i hadn’t just researched chicken, i would do that ALL the time. we did have one of their rotisserie chickens last week, and it was amazing. :)

    • Janice

      for lunches we do pb&j twice a week, egg salad, tuna salad, tuna noodle salad, tuna melts, cheese sandwich, cheese&crackers, “cheese toast”chicken salad, yogurts, apple butter, cream cheese and jelly, fluffernutter, “banana dogs” (hot dog buns, pb, bananas),soup, leftovers, lettuce and veggie salad (add cheese or nuts), kidney bean salad, pea and cheese salad, cottage cheese (has to be a good sale!)……

      We do do luncheon meat once or twice a month. I buy the Costco turkey, and sometimes the ham. I also buy the Hormel “Natural” line; Publix had the pepperoni on clearance for next to nothing and I got a bunch, so we’ve eaten on it for a while. It’s good, but I don’t know where you’d get it.

      • amysanders

        LOVE these ideas! what is fluffernutter? do you have a good egg salad recipe?

        • TheChapLeigh

          I’m pretty sure “Fluff” wouldn’t make your list of approved nutritional products — LOL — but it used to make the best Fluffernutter sandwiches when I was a kid!!! It’s like somewhat liquified marshmallows, kept in a jar. For some reason I remember seeing it on the bottom shelf of the baking supplies at Harris Teeter.

          • amysanders

            sounds yummy. :)

    • Lana

      For hot dogs we go with Oscar Mayer Selects. Still not a perfect option. I do not stress about protein for lunch because there are so many non meat proteins that can be eaten instead. Americans typically eat way more protein than is necessary on a daily basis anyway.

      • amysanders

        so what non meat proteins do you use for lunch? (i’ve got a gal with nut allergies–so nut butters of all sorts are out for us!)

        • amelia

          Hummus with carrot and celery sticks and crackers or pita chips and believe it or not avocado has protein. I like to spread mashed avocado on each slice of bread and put onion slivers, lettuce, soy cheese slices and tomato slice in the middle.

          • amysanders

            i have recently become obsessed with guacamole. if only i liked hummus. hard to sell it to the kids if i don’t like it. i’ve heard though that not all hummus is created equal. thanks for the ideas!!

            • TheChapLeigh

              oh I have a great recipe I’d found in a vegetarian book. simple — in a food processor you mix up a can of chickpeas, a few TBSP of PB or tahini, a few cloves of garlic, some lemon juice, S&P and cumin. Even my friend who detests hummus loved that recipe!

            • amysanders

              what is tahini and where does one buy it?

            • TheChapLeigh

              Sorry, I should have stated that tahini is sesame seed paste — a better option if you want to spend the price on it (and if you make a lot of hummus, then it’s worth the price). I got mine at Harris Teeter, near the PB. But, I have used PB many times & the hummus has always gotten rave reviews! The recipe book is “Vegetarian” by Linda Fraser. 8 oz can chickpeas, 2 garlic cloves, 6 TBSP lemon juice, 4 TBSP tahini or PB, 5 TBSP olive oil (added in at last whirl of the food processor), 1 tsp ground cumin (i add a bit more), S&P to taste, & paprika to garnish (but I’ve never used that). ENJOY!!

            • TheChapLeigh

              I should add — drain the chickpeas, but save the liquid, because you need to add some back in to the food processor — to your desired consistency of hummus.

            • amysanders

              thanks!

    • amelia

      The zucchinni pepperoni is intriguing, but the price of the roasted the red pepper spread at $25 for a 1lb. package is too pricey! There has to be a way to make it yourself.

      • amysanders

        the good thing about the 1lb package is that it would last forever! (i felt the same way though at first)…do they still carry the smaller pack?

        • amelia

          You are right, there is a 2 oz. package for $4. The shipping does double the price, though. Maybe I’ll buy it and look at the ingredients so I can make it myself.

          • amysanders

            here are the ingredients: onion, red pepper, garlic, pepper, paprika. it looks like the first three are dehydrated and then just seasoned. hope that helps!

    • katkoupon

      I thought my turkey bacon days were over because of mechanically separated meat and dyes, but, as you wrote…we have to read the labels! Assume nothing. Just this week, I found Applegate Turkey Bacon at Kroger (on sale $3.99 for 8 oz). It’s minimally processed, made from whole thigh meat. It’s also uncured, and ingredients include: turkey, water, salt, celery powder, maple sugar, onion powder, spices. I love when I can recognize all the ingredients! Also, if you look up thepaleomama and check out her Feb 11th post, she has a great Real Food list for Costco shopping. I think she’s in
      Florida, but my SC Costco has most of these same products at about the same prices. I found this list quite handy, even though I frequently shop there myself. Helps us shopping mamas be a little more prepared ;) I do love my Costco!

      • TheChapLeigh

        Thanks for pointing out that website… a good resource regarding what Costco has to offer. I haven’t shopped there as we don’t have one in town & i prefer my Harris Teeter for convenience-sake, but our family is considering a move & that would mean i’d have to travel to the closest Costco. It’s nice to see excellent prices on organic carrots!

        • amysanders

          are you leaving the farm?

          • TheChapLeigh

            Praying about it — for an AMAZING opportunity in the field of sustainable agriculture… but would mean a complete (and I mean, COMPLETE) career change for the hubster as well as a few other big changes that we need to evaluate. You can definately pray for us!!

            • amysanders

              will do!

      • amysanders

        thanks! i’m going to go check that out now. :)

    • TheChapLeigh

      Great post! Thanks for all the hard work! I appreciate your research and you helping us all to decipher what “healthy” means for those of us trying to read labels & weed through much of the conflicting information we read in “studies done” and what we hear from our government (and HOW many times has the “food pyramid” changed in our lifetimes?). ***Just my little sidenote here — what many people may not realize when reading about the latest “study” is that there are GOOD studies and POOR studies, and that is dependent upon many factors of how the study was set up & carried out. Much of our confusion comes from biased studies, manipulated to “prove” what is the desired outcome of the agency, corporation, etc which serves to profit.***

      Anyhow, I do occasionally eat lunchmeats, but try to make it a better choice, be it Applegate products or enjoying lunch at Jason’s Deli or Moe’s (who advertise to be organic or no additives — I do think I need to read more of the fine print of WHAT that means to them, however…) Only rarely do we eat standard sub shop sandwiches or from our grocery deli — usually that’s because I’m too busy for the work it takes to make a “better choice”.

      For lunches, we eat dinner leftovers, homemade (ie, no sugar) yogurt with granola, cheeses, a LOT of homemade chicken, beef or bean soups, hummus, organic no-sugar-added PB on veggies (or homemade waffles, or in the oatmeal… the kids LOVE PB!!), chicken salad sandwiches (from the leftover crock-pot-roasted chicken, as another commenter posted below). Often we have eggs (prepared any fashion, if we didn’t have that for breakfast — living on a farm, we thankfully have all we could want of this protein). Additionally, the kids have access to a microwave at their school, so we aren’t as limited as most to lunch options. And I’m at home with the others, so much of my time in spent in the kitchen, which I realize is not realistic for many busy moms.

      Thanks again for the great info you are sharing with everyone!!

      • katkoupon

        Good point about the studies! It’s always interesting to see if they are independent or funded by the company. Boar’s Head also makes pretty good deli meats, from what I can tell. Not organic, but good quality, minimal ingredients, no preservatives, etc. There’s always at least one on sale at Kroger each week.

        • TheChapLeigh

          I have always enjoyed Boar’s Head meats — but didn’t know the above info, so thanks for sharing!

        • amysanders

          boar’s head is on my list to research. i feel like it is hard to tell what exactly is going on with their meats, but i’m eager to find out! (especially since they are about the same price as my applegate deli meat.)

      • amysanders

        thanks for the kind words. i am learning SOOO much. glad others can benefit too. :) these are great ideas…thanks for sharing!

    • joe

      1) In case anyone is tempted, Turkey peperoni is foul. Don’t buy it unless you hate your tastebuds or feel yourself to be deserving on some self inflicted punishment..

      2) For us, price is a huge factor. We don’t eat a lot of meat because it is expensive. When we do eat meat, it is usually spread out through out the dish, so we eat less. The meats we do buy are never more than $1.50/lb (I don’t count hot dogs as a meat. Plus for as bad they taste, they are ridiculously fatty.)

      Even though the original goal was to save money it is a great way to eat healthy.

      3) Healthy proteins for lunch:

      a) Lentil Soup. You ask how this is quick? Easy, make a huge pot of it so there are plenty of leftovers. If you are going to go through the effort to make a good lentil soup why make enough fo ronly one or two meals.

      Using pounds of onion, celery, carrots, and tomatoes everyone gets plenty of vegetables and the lentils provide the protein. I recomend making it thick, especially if you have little kids. It makes it easier for them to eat. Cornbread makes a great accompanyment.

      b) Black bean soup (or almost anyother legums based soup). For reasoning see Lentil Soup above.

      c) Egg white omlets. Ocasionally we can get egg beaters on sale for around $1.50/lb. We usually grab a armful because they are ridiculously healthy and rather versitile.

      Zero Cholesteral, Zero Fat, All protein. This is great for any looking to lose weight or could have potential heart problems. Now admittedly, The ways I prepare thed usually add sodium, fat and sometimes cholesteral to the meal, but you need your food to taste good and it stillusually ends up as a low fat, high protein meal.

      Sautaing onions and pepers togeather, than adding the eggwhites with a little salt can be a delicious meal if done right (if not done right, can be rather bland with a subpar texture).

      • amysanders

        thanks for the ideas!!