It is common knowledge that cold cuts and hot dogs contain less-than-desirable food additives (e.g., nitrites), but what about "fresh" cuts of meat at your local butcher or supermarket? Shoppers may logically assume that fresh cuts of meat contain just meat; but store-bought chickens, steaks and chops often contain chemical additives, as well. These added chemicals are one of the many reasons it is best to purchase meat directly from local farmers, instead.
Store-bought meats are problematic for many reasons. The animals are generally raised in horrifying factory farm conditions, fed diets that are not appropriate for their species (e.g., corn-fed cows) and administered antibiotics and growth hormones. But did you know that the integrity of many store-bought meat products is even further reduced during processing with the addition of chemical solutions to increase tenderness and flavor and prolong shelf life?
How to find additive-free meat
When you flip over a package of a processed meat like hot dogs, you expect to find an ingredients list. But what about a whole chicken, steak or pork chops? What ingredients would you expect to find on those packages? Rightfully, you could expect "meat" to be the only ingredient. In many cases; however, you will find an entire list of chemical ingredients - yes, even in a simple steak. These chemical solutions are often referred to on the front of packages as "marinade," "broth" or "enhanced"; and they may contain hidden sources of MSG (monosodium glutamate). Be especially wary of ground chicken and ground turkey, as these products frequently contain "natural flavor" - a mysterious ingredient for which companies are not required to list the components, some of which may disguise MSG. If there is no ingredients list on the package, check for any mention of "broth, solution, marinade or enhanced" in small print on the front of the package. If there is neither an ingredients list nor any information listed on the front label, don't assume it's additive-free. Always ask the butcher or meat manager to be sure.
Think you'll eliminate the threat by avoiding meats that are pre-packaged and purchasing directly from the "fresh meat" case, instead? Think again. That is no guarantee that the meat is free of additives. Meat that is freshly-cut or wrapped at the butcher or grocery store most likely will not have an ingredients label, so it's even more imperative that you ask the butcher or the meat manager directly.
Never assume that these meats are additive-free, as the chemical solutions are generally added to the meat at the processing facility before it is shipped to butchers and stores. Please also note that just because a brand or store carries an additive-free cut of a particular meat, that doesn't mean that all of their meats are necessarily free of chemical solutions. Each item you purchase must be individually checked, even within the same brand.
As with any commercially-packaged food item, you must also ignore most of the claims on the front of the package. No matter how "natural" or "free of artificial ingredients" it claims to be on the front, you must check the ingredients list. Most words used to make claims on the front of packaging are not regulated (e.g., "natural"), so they really aren't meaningful.
Of course, the best way to truly know what is in your meat is to raise it yourself or to purchase directly from local farmers. Visit their farms, if possible, and ask questions about how their animals are raised and fed and what ingredients, if any, are added to their products during processing.