Bacon and Hot Dog Labels Decoded!

Bacon and hot dog packages are adorned with enough claims to make your head spin – some of which don’t exactly make sense! So I am excited to be on the advisory board for Applegate and therefore partnering with them on this sponsored post today in order to get to the bottom of this confusion. Applegate organic bacon is my all-time favorite bacon – so much so that I get nervous when there are “shortages” and my store doesn’t have any in stock (if anyone saw me buying 5 packs to stock my freezer last week it’s because I’ve got to get it when I can)!

When we first started our 100-day pledge we made a rule that all of our meat had to be locally sourced. And (for the first couple years) our occasional consumption of bacon and hot dogs were no exception. But the thing is, due to all that labeling that I didn’t always understand (cured? uncured? smoked? not smoked?), the locally sourced bacon I was buying tasted absolutely NOTHING like the store bought stuff. It was basically just plain meat with no seasoning at all (oh, the horror!). So one day when I “needed” bacon and was unable to buy the local stuff, I bought Applegate Organic instead. Oh my – I forgot what I was missing and have honestly never looked back!

So in order to shed some light on all these mysterious terms…I bring to you “Bacon and Hot Dog Labels Decoded!” In case you haven’t noticed many of the same terms are used on both products.

Bacon and Hot Dog Labels Decoded from 100 Days of #RealFood

  • Uncured –
    Due to outdated laws this is one of the most confusing terms. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “cure” as: “to preserve by salting, drying, etc.” So, according to historical meat preserving tradition, many Applegate products actually are cured. Unfortunately, the USDA’s definition of “cured” derives from the industrial food system. Before refrigeration was common, synthetic sodium nitrite was viewed as an innovation that made food safer. At the time, the USDA required producers to include the synthetic compound in products labeled “cured” to help customers identify bacteria-free foods, and label laws haven’t changed since. However, there are many ways to cure meat, not all of which require a synthetic chemical. For example, Applegate cures their Prosciutto using only salt and spices. They make other products like organic hot dogs and Virginia ham with celery juice and starter culture. The results are natural (and delicious, I might add!).
  • Smoked –
    This term right here is the difference between the amazing store bought bacon we are all used to and the local, flavorless bacon I mentioned above. At first I thought the difference was that the local bacon was uncured, but then I saw that the bacon packages in the store all said “uncured,” too. (Again – so much confusion!). Smoking the bacon is literally when the meat is put into a smoker for hours over hardwood. This happens at a very low temperature so the meat is not actually cooked when it’s done. You can even buy smokers for home use and make your own bacon using pork belly! We have a smoker that we recently dusted off and have been experimenting with – so this is something I’ve added to my list to try.
  • No Nitrites or Nitrates Added –
    This claim is another super misleading one. It does not actually mean there are no nitrites or nitrates used – it just means they are not the synthetic ones, which is of course a good thing! When you see this on an Applegate package it simply means they’ve cured the meat using nitrates found in nature (from celery powder, which is listed on the ingredient label) – not the factory made version. When mixed with a culture starter, the natural nitrates in celery juice turn to nitrites and achieve the desirable results (better flavor and appearance) without the factory side effects. Check out this nitrite/nitrate FAQ for more details.
  • Not Preserved –
    For Applegate this means that no artificial preservatives are used and instead only untreated natural salt and sea salt have been added (as shown on the ingredient label) since they act as a natural preservative.
  • No Antiobiotics Used –
    First of all, when and why are antibiotics used on animals anyway? Conventional farmers give antibiotics to animals to help prevent some diseases, but also to cause animals to grow larger and fatter at an increased rate. Because animals can then be slaughtered at a younger age and on less feed, this practice is used as a cost-saving measure. Talk about in-humane! So when a package says “Natural” or “Organic” that means antibiotics probably have not been used, but it’s also reassuring to see this claim spelled out on its own since it’s something that is super important.
  • Humanely Raised –
    This is not a term that is regulated by the government so it can mean different things coming from different companies. When Applegate uses this term it means the meat and poultry used in their products come from animals that are raised on family farms in an environment that allows them to move about freely and exhibit natural behaviors, such as rooting and pecking. Animals are also fed an all vegetarian grain or grass diet without antibiotics, hormones or animal by-products. And their humane slaughter practices follow the guidelines set forth by Dr. Temple Grandin, a world renowned authority on humane animal husbandry. If you see “humanely raised” coming from a different company and want to know exactly what that means – the best thing to do is call them up and ask.
  • Gluten and Casein Free –
    “Gluten” is a protein found in wheat and other related grains. “Casein” has a molecular structure similar to gluten, and can be found in many cheeses. Most meat products obviously don’t contain grains (unless they’re breaded), but seeing this promise on the package can be helpful for those who want to be sure they are avoiding gluten and casein. I personally don’t think there’s any reason to avoid gluten (or casein for that matter) unless you feel better when you’re not eating it.
  • Natural –
    Just like the “humanely raised” term mentioned above, this one is not regulated by the government and therefore can be used in a misleading manner. Typically “natural” means nothing artificial or synthetic has been added to the product, but I’ve even see this unspoken rule broken by the food industry before (surprise, surprise). When it comes to bacon and other meat products, animals raised in confinement, fed a diet of bakery waste or animal by-products, or administered daily doses of antibiotics and hormones, could unfortunately all be sold as natural meat. But, when Applegate uses the “natural” claim they say it means the following: No antibiotics or hormones, a vegetarian grain or 100% grass diet, humane animal standards, no chemical nitrites, nitrates, or phosphates, and no artificial ingredients or preservatives. So the bottom line is I think we can trust the “natural” label if it’s coming from a company that we trust.
  • Organic – 
    If you choose an organic Applegate product over the natural version you can be assured you’re getting everything the natural version promises plus non-GMO and organic feed (i.e. grown without the use of pesticides) for the animals. In addition, any company with the certified organic label means the production process was certified from start to finish through a yearly audit. This ensures that all of the criteria of the USDA Organic Standards are met.

In the end, bacon and (especially) hot dogs are not everyday fare for our family. And funny enough, I found this little quote on Applegate’s website that is completely in line with my own personal philosophy: “Eat Less Meat, But Better Meat.” So the bottom line is naturally cured meats enjoyed in moderation can be part of a real food diet (whew!). 

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120 thoughts on “Bacon and Hot Dog Labels Decoded!”

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  1. So my question relates to animals being “vegetarian-fed” or “grain fed.” Chickens aren’t naturally vegetarians; insects, and the like, are a natural part of their diet in a pasture environment. Additionally, at least sources I’ve read (and I’m not an expert) indicate that cows’ digestive systems aren’t meant to process a grain-based diet.. So, to me, those terms aren’t necessarily something that draw me to a product. Grass fed beef…yes. Pasture raised beef and chicken…yes! Have you learned anything about this from your work with Applegate that could help explain this part of the equation better? And I know very little about pork, except that pasture-raised is always a good thing!

    On another note, information in your cookbooks and on your blog helped me tremendously through a period of GI issues with my daughter. Thanks so much!! We have several 100DRF recipes in a regular rotation at our house. :)

  2. Thank you for including the living conditions of animals as part of your review. In Maine as well as many states with family farmers, local meats are raised humanely, taste delicious, and are nutritious.

  3. So their products that are “Natural” labeled actually contain GMO’s and synthetic pesticides in the food that the animals are given? So the vegetarian feed may include something like corn and it would be GMO? That doesn’t seem very honest to put a “natural” label on something that contains genetically modified organisms. And for the record, I have ONLY purchased AppleGate Farms for the past 5 years when it comes to our bacon, hot dogs and lunch meat and even cheese slices at times. Sometimes I will reach for their “Natural” over their “Organic” label because I felt certain that after all the care they took into making such a clean eating product and raising animals so humanely, there’s no way at the end of the day they would ruin the product with GMO’s. Am I wrong??

      1. So she trusts that their high standards include the use of non GMO ingredients? Or she is ok with the use of GMO’s because every other aspect of the product line is of a higher standard? And just to be clear, this was more of a comment directed at the integrity of Applegate themsleves, not Lisa! I have been following Lisa for many years now and I love her! :)

      2. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

        Well, I’m certain she would prefer to know that GMO’s are not used in their feeds but specifically she said “But, when Applegate uses the “natural” claim they say it means the following: No antibiotics or hormones, a vegetarian grain or 100% grass diet, humane animal standards, no chemical nitrites, nitrates, or phosphates, and no artificial ingredients or preservatives. So the bottom line is I think we can trust the “natural” label if it’s coming from a company that we trust.” I do not know that they provide those kind of details but you could always give them a call. I, personally, tend to stick with organic labels because then I feel I “know” that they are GMO free.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to explain all this! Definitely makes choosing the right brands for my family easier! I love the Applegate brand and all they stand for! Thanks again!

  5. Recently, my local co-op stopped carrying Applegate meats because they were sold to Hornell and have begun sourcing the meat from Ali over the world and therefore harder to ensure the same level of quality.

  6. I’ve been searching for bacon, but everything I find (even the organic and local varieties) are cured in sugar. Even Applegate Sunday bacon lists cane sugar on the list. Is this ok?

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Katy. I know it can be hard to find good options. Lisa buys the Sunday bacon occasionally. :)

  7. I was bummed to find out that after buying applegates products I found out that the ones I was buying contain gmo’s. I thought they were a gmo free company, but that is only for their organic line.

  8. I read an article that stated that the level of nitrates in foods that use celery juice can actually be quite a bit higher than using the synthetic version. I’m leary of that claim, but do wonder if there’s any truth to it. Not that the synthetic version is good (I’m sure it’s not) but that the “natural” version is not as good as we think it is. My family loves bacon, and I’d love to see some good unbiased info specifically on this point.

  9. And now Target carries Applegate! By me, it runs a little less than some of the other stores that carry the Applegate brand.

  10. I actually stopped buying Applegate pdcts when whole foods started labeling their meat products with their current scoring system based on the environment the animals are raised in– Applegate gets only the lowest “enhanced environment ” score– not the higher pastured/natural environment scores that other choices have. Plus they use paprika in a lot of their processed meat and my DD can’t tolerate it. So we have to use other brands. But we do stay away from synthetic nitrates as much as possible.

  11. Thank you for this information I just bought some applegate organic hot dogs and I agree all the labeling can be confusing but you explained it wonderfully. I can’t wait to try these hot dogs. I just love your blog and all the knowledge I obtain from your site . Again thank you so much

  12. We buy the Applegate or Hormel brand of bacon but the Applegate hotdogs have soooo much sodium that we now make out own sausages instead.

  13. Hi Lisa:
    I love your blog. My family and I share many of your philosophies on life and food. We have our own organic garden and buy local, organic vegetables and meat from two CSA’s in our hometown. I volunteer at the vegetable CSA and know the farmer who we purchase our organic pastured pork, organic pastured chicken and organic/grass fed beef from. We like to stay as close as possible to the food that we are supporting and consuming.

    I just read your blog post on bacon and hot dogs (both things we enjoy but also try to keep in moderation as well, esp the hot dogs!). Overall, I think you did a great job explaining and decoding the different labels we come across on our store bought food. They are misleading. I hope to see this change in the future.

    As a veterinarian, I would like to talk to you about a few things that I think are misleading on your site in regards to animal care and treatment. I do think that we have to be careful with the discussion of antibiotics. I agree with many of your comments. I don’t want antibiotics or antibiotic residues in my food or your food, either. I agree that these drugs are misused both in people and pets/animals and as a society we have some work to do (another reason we should stay close to our food source if possible). However, there is a time and a place when antibiotics are necessary to treat bacterial diseases in our food-producing animals and withholding treatment is cruel and inhumane to the individual animal. I’ve seen pasture-raised animals that are lacking appropriate care and welfare for a variety of reasons (health of animal, lack of upkeep of pasture, lack of appropriate medical care for the animal) so once again, pasture-raised, organic does not always mean happy/healthy animals. Overall, I think the organic movement has it’s heart and head in the right place but we still have some work to do to figure out the right balance.

    Thanks for your hard work on a tough topic. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help.

  14. Hi there, I was just wondering if anyone has been able to find a hot dog or a sausage, that does not have “spice” in it. Spices are fine, but I need them broken down by spice. I can’t do Paprika, or any kind of chili pepper spice. Any lucky, anyone? I want sausage for the 4th of July!

  15. I am wondering if this applies to their deli meats, too. I just saw the pre-packaged bacon and hot dogs pictured, but does this post pertain to all Applegate products?

  16. I am a newbie to the whole organic/clean eating world and ran across this blog because my sister-in-law reads it. I recently purchased some Applegate Naturals Chicken Nuggets because my husband is an “All-American” eater (i.e. Cheeseburgers, French fries, mac and cheese, really anything unhealthy) and I have had a terrible time finding clean foods that he enjoys eating. We both really like the Applegate nuggets, but it was torture putting them in the cart because of the $8.99 sticker price. Also after reading some of these comments I am a little concerned that what I thought was a more natural and clean substitute for my husbands favorite chicken nuggets is not so. What is your opinion of any other Applegate products besides the bacon and hotdogs and do you have any recommendations for me regarding my husbands taste buds?

  17. While I think Applegate in particular is pretty trustworthy, this post is awfully misleading as far as what food labels mean as a rule. Just because Applegate bacon says “natural” on the package and is a natural product doesn’t mean the label has any value at all. For this post to say that “Typically natural means…” is serious misinformation.

  18. I visited this site for the first time today and was expecting something great, based on the rave reviews. I am really suprised to instead find this “sponsored” post. It’s essentially an ad for a company telling consumers that a bunch of misleading descriptors are really good for you, if you buy Applegate.

    I think websites like this should support buying local and real food, and not jump on the bandwagon of selling products of big companies by telling readers (for money) that all of the confusing stuff on the label means that this company’s hot dogs are good for you. I guess I was expecting something else from this site. I must have visited too late — after you sold out!

    1. Caroline – As far as I can tell, all bloggers with a wide reach do sponsored posts. They do have to make a living, after all. I appreciate a thoughtful blogger using a sponsored post to talk about an important topic and a brand that he or she can actually stand behind, like Applegate (which is a high-quality product).

  19. Thank you for this post. I realize that it is sponsored, but we’ve been exploring Applegate products recently so it’s timely for our family. The hotdogs were a hit, especially for my little boys who see other family members eating conventional hotdogs all the time. It’s substitutions like this that are small victories in teaching them about a healthier lifestyle. Thanks for posting!

  20. Thank you for posting this! I feel like this is one of the larger challenges of eating real – figuring out what the verbiage on the labels mean. This article was really helpful. I am glad to hear you’re a supporter of Applegate – I love their meats, as well, and am very thankful to be able to find them in my grocery store.

  21. Thanks so much for sharing this! We’ve been getting hormel natural bacon-makes basically the same claims as Applegate but not organic or humane. I will for sure be buying Applegate when I see it!

  22. I’d really like to hear a response on the point that nitrates from celery are not any better and arguably worse than non-natural nitrates sources. I sadly bought into the ‘natural’ labeling for these types of products, until I disappointingly realized that it’s just marketing and not at all better for my family. It’s disheartening that even on a website like this to see this type of misinformation.

    1. Tania, Nitrates that occur naturally in food are better than synthetic due to being alongside other compounds such as vitamin C.

      Nitrates can convert to Nitrites in the body when used as a food additive; and Nitrites, when exposed to high heat during cooking, can convert to Nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic. Compounds such as Vitamin C inhibit their (Nitrates) conversion into Nitrosamines. So be sure to take a good quality (ie natural) Vit C supplement every day (which we all should be doing anyway; not just when we feel a cold coming on!) :)

      It’s a mystery to me why just good old salt isn’t used as a preservative.

      1. You’re absolutely right Chris. Like you said, nitrates that occur naturally are broken down by other compounds in the same food. When nitrates get extracted and added to foods that do NOT contain these compounds, it really doesn’t matter where the nitrates came from. Which makes these “natural” and “nitrate free” products – and this post – misleading.

  23. I get that this is a sponsored post, but I would have like to see more encouragement to readers to at least try the bacon from local farms before immediately dismissing it all as unflavorful. I’ve had some incredible local bacon, made with trusted ingredients and practices.

  24. Excellent info as I am always a bit skeptical with what’s inside a hot dog. The brands need to step it up because people are reading labels more often. I do.

  25. This may already be in the comments, so if it is, I apologize. When the animals are fed all vegetarian or grass fed, does the grain refer to GMO products? If there is no differentiation, then would these products not wind up in the meat because the animal ate it?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Ken. If you go with their organic products:
      “If you choose an organic Applegate product over the natural version you can be assured you’re getting everything the natural version promises plus non-GMO and organic feed (i.e. grown without the use of pesticides) for the animals. In addition, any company with the certified organic label means the production process was certified from start to finish through a yearly audit. This ensures that all of the criteria of the USDA Organic Standards are met.” Does that answer your question? ~Amy

  26. Thank you for this post! My family has only been buying local meats at our farmer’s markets and this sometimes gets a bit pricey. I am glad to share this post with them for other meat options we can feel good about!

  27. I have been buying this for a long time. Surprised you just found it. The only products I buy. Some Targets sell everything Applegate. Some just cheese and lunchmeat. Forget Wal-Mart. Usually better quality products you will not find at Wal-Mart.

  28. I have a question.

    My family has been substance farmers, raising chickens and jersey steers (a slow growing breed), for nearly 22 years.

    In the event that one of our steers became ill, mostly in the late fall/early winter while they are still a young calf, we would give them antibiotics until they were well (generally not more than a week). They then would go on to become healthy full grow steers.

    How do you think organic/natural/humanely raised farms approach this? Do the processing companies then decide the meat is “not organic”?

    I would hope that in the event an animal were treated for a short term illness that they weren’t shipped off to some other factory (I would never dare call them a farm) to be used with other “commercial” beef.

    1. Critical Reader

      I do not know about US organic, but I can tell you the situation in Europe (assuming US organic is somewhat similar). For organic farming, the preventative use of antibiotics is not allowed. If the animal gets sick antibiotics can be used, but only once in an animal’s lifetime. If two treatments are required the meat is not considered organic anymore and needs to be sold as conventional meat.

  29. Any wisdom on Turkey bacon? I have a pork allergy so I’ve had to switch to turkey, chicken or beef which is not too difficult in the area of sausages. Bacon has been more challenging. Nothing compares to cooked bacon especially in summer foods. I don’t eat the turkey bacon regularly, but every now and then we do a big breakfast and need a good substitute. I know my husband and kids would appreciate it!

    1. If you visit the Applegate website it has a store locator function. In my area SaveMart, Vons, Target & Whole Foods carry it.

  30. Yay! Congrats on your new position!
    We love Applegate products. They have fantastic operating practices and a large variety of peanut free products for my kiddos!

  31. Casein is used as a filler in other manufacturer’s meat products and it sometimes appears in a milk based lactic acid starter, so it’s nice to know Applegate is casein free. The GF/CF labeling helps those of us who have to avoid those foods for allergic reasons.

  32. We take our venison to a local meat processor to have hot dogs made. I’m wondering what you think the chances are that they use chemical preservatives or artificial ingredients. When you contact these businesses, are they usually honest about their practices?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Kerry. Well, we certainly hope they are. If you don’t get a good feeling, ask to visit the facility. ~Amt

  33. Have to agree with a previous poster — Niman Ranch bacon is THE BEST tasting bacon ever and is cheaper than Applegate. Sometimes my store does not have it in stock, so when they do, I buy it even if I don’t need it. I guess that makes me a bacon hoarder too??

    1. I LOVE Niman ranch bacon too! It was the cheapest humanely raised bacon I could find. Sadly, my local Trader Joe’s stopped carrying it. Applegate bacon was expensive, thankfully I was able to find affordable humanely raised bacon at my local farmer’s market. I buy extra for the freezer as well, yum!

  34. I, too, love the applegate meat products! But am wondering if their Organic all beef hot dogs are grass-fed?! Do you happen to know? Thanks 😄

  35. I thought I was the only one that horded Sunday Bacon! And now my store doesn’t sell it. I could weep.

  36. I think Applegate should be either in or out! Organic only and get rid of their “Natural” line! Their “Natural” line is fed GMO feed, NOT organic feed. I emailed them and confirmed this.

  37. I love your website and found this article extremely informative. I have been buying Appelgate products for my family for years and I’m so happy to read all this good stuff abt the company.
    Thank-you :)

  38. Wondering what you thought of this article? I find this whole thing very confusing. My seven year old loves hotdogs (like most kids) and I was buying the organic no nitrates added types at a higher cost to ensure that on occasion when he ate them he was getting the healthiest version possible, then I came across this article that points out that a “nitrate is a nitrate” the body does not make much distingishment between synthetic and natural nitrates(according to the article anyway) and that the organic and natural brands can have up to 10x more nitrates then the other brands. Very frustrating and just more confusion for parents trying really hard to do the right thing.

  39. Thank you for this article. I’ve been taking baby steps with the dietary changes you promote on your site. I live in a very rural community with no local whole foods store. When I first read the article on Applegate products I didn’t think much about it. I assumed it was just another product I would not have access to. During my trip to the grocery, however, I immediately spotted the red package and label. I was thrilled! And to make it even better, I tried the hotdogs out on our camping trip. Success! Thanks so much for guiding me in the right direction!

  40. Thanks, Lisa for this great information. I find that labels are so confusing – it took me a couple of years to feel confident that I had it right. I appreciate that you are keeping it simple and adding your credibility to a great company. I, too, love Applegate and buy it regularly for my family. I think the frustrating thing about corporations is that they have a tendency to build a great brand on values their consumers agree with and then sell out to larger corporations – ie. Tom’s of Maine, Ben & Jerry’s and Aveda. That doesn’t necessarily mean they truly sold out, but history seems to show that they do… All that being said, I appreciate that you keep your readers informed about great, real foods from a variety of sources.

  41. I love your blog and I used to be the person in the store buying lots of Applegate Sunday bacon when it was available. I have switched to Nieman Ranch Bacon as another person commented. The reason I stopped buying Applegate was due to the fact that I bought a few packages that turned out to be rancid.

    When I contacted Applegate they offered to send me coupons for new products. When I used the coupons at my organic market the store personnel said, “Oh, more Applegate coupons.” Evidently, I was not the only one who had purchased bad products. Under further investigation the store personnel told me they were having many Applegate products come in with broken seals on the packages. I called the Applegate representative who had mailed me the coupons to let him know about this problem. I thought he would be really concerned but he told me that was a manufacturing problem and I would have to ask store personnel to contact the specific packager of their Applegate products.

    I probably would have continued to buy their bacon if they had showed some concern and offered to contact the store and the packager themselves. I may try again in the future but am really concerned about this happening again.

  42. As a migraine sufferer, I can tell you that there is some sort of difference between sodium nitrite and the naturally occuring nitrites from celery juice/powder: sodium nitrite is a migraine trigger for many migraine sufferers. However, many of us can eat the “nitrite-free” versions with no issue. I have yet to find a local source for cured meats that doesn’t use sodium nitrite so I’m very glad that I do have an option from the grocery store.

  43. Our local BJs sells 5 Applegate products & we have enjoyed them. Glad to read your post. Thanks you for helping so many get healthier!

  44. Laura Watts (ModernPioneerMom)

    I’ve been a big fan of Applegate bacon as well, but I just stumbled upon Niman Ranch bacon at my health food store, and wow! I think I have a new favorite for uncured bacon. The taste was even better than Applegate! And the price was a little better too. They support 700 U.S. family farmers and insist on humane treatment of animals. Glad to know there are now several choices.

    1. Agree 100% Laura. Love my Niman Ranch bacon — actually ALL of their pork products. Best pork chops I have ever eaten.

  45. Would you mind citing your source for this statement: “antibiotics….. Cause animals to grow larger and fatter at an increased rate”? I am just curious because I didn’t realize antibiotics could do that.

    I prefer our local (smoked) bacon (who buys bacon thats not smoked anyway…?) but I do buy applegate bacon in the winter when our farmers market closes down and it’s harder to find. I am soooooo incredibly thankful to have a good meat option at the grocery store!

  46. Appreciate your article and don’t believe you are selling out to make a buck, have always like your blog and have gotten lots of good information and product links. I also like the fact that although most don’t know what moderation means in terms of servings and frequency that we can still enjoy certain foods on occasion. Take care.

  47. Good for you being on an advisory board! congrats! Need to get somewhere like that myself as I am very obsessed with all this stuff :) I am an oncology nurse for almost over 20 yrs and boy do I see what (I think) our food industry is doing to our people colon cancers at 30??? come on with no family history…..Its crazy I DO believe its because of the food, dyes, chemicals, etc in the foods causing this! ANYway I will stop cuz I can keep on going on that topic :)
    I had to read this article ASAP as I saw on your instagram because here I am early sunday morning cooking my applegate bacon and I saw a posting sooooo whew! My family and I can ENJOY the bacon I am cooking! YEAH! thanks for the posting!!!

  48. I was just working on a post, coming out last week of May, for my wife’s blog that uses Applegate turkey pepperoni. We recommend it and our kids love the taste. It is very important to read food labels and to understand what they mean and what you are buying. We are continuosly learning about the food we take into our bodies – the more we learn the better off our family is. Thanks for decoding these labels.

  49. I had tried uncured/nitrite free before and never liked anything I found. I recently bought some Applegate Farms Ham and Hotdogs and I was so surprised it was good. Food is about taste as well as nutrition.

  50. I am incredibly disappointed in you! Encouraging your readers to buy mass produced meat instead of local, makes you a sell out. I buy delicious, local baccon all the time. I also buy Applegate hotdogs all the time. I am not anti Applegate by any means, but I cannot believe that you would degrade local meat in order to make a buck from a sponsor. Is this the example you want to set for your girls? I will no longer be reading your blog.

    1. I can’t speak for Lisa, but for myself personally, I can’t FIND a good local bacon. Oh, there’s a few local farms that offer bacon for sure, but they also put additives in it. Propylene glycol for one, which gives me skin rashes. Applegate’s organic bacon has NO additives at all, on real ingredients. So at the end of the day, I gotta choose Applegate over anything locally.

      If you really read 100 Days on a regular basis at all, you’d notice that Lisa is a huge proponent of local food and farmers’ markets. I don’t think the point of this post was to promote Applegate as much as it was to educate the masses on terms used on these types of meats. Applegate is one of the few brands period that even offers natural/organic bacon and hot dogs.

    2. Wow, it’s really sad that you would read this and decide to stop reading the 100 days blog. You must be someone that listens to the news and believes everything you hear too? Sounds to me like you read only what you want to read. I live in a hugely agricultural city. Every veggie, fruit & many meats and dairy can be locally purchased. HOWEVER, I like GMO free and organic and VERY FEW of my local growers, etc, are truely organic and GMO free. It’s hard to buy locally when they are still using Monsanto chemicals and Monsanto seeds. So Lisa is accurate and she’s being a real person with a real opinion. So stop reading if you must, you’ll be missing out on an incredible site. Sad for you.

    3. I am sorry to hear that you are “disappointed” in my honesty about my quest to find good bacon. We eat locally raised meat almost exclusively except for these two items. My blog was never meant to be about perfection, because frankly that just isn’t realistic for anyone. This site is a chronicle of my real life journey and I’ve been talking about and using Applegate long before they were ever a sponsor. We aim to work with sponsors that are a natural fit with what I am already doing and buying so this one just made sense.

  51. Lisa, don’t those naturally formed nitrites still create nitrosamines? I avoid even natural nitrates for that reason. Am I mistaken?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hello Pam. Lisa feels comfortable with the naturally occurring nitrates in Applegate’s products. These are foods which are used occasionally in their household. Certainly, avoiding nitrates completely is a reasonable choice if you are concerned about their effects. ~Amy

  52. Its misleading to say local bacon is just unseasoned meat. We raise hogs on pasture and our butcher prepares our nitrate-nitrite-preservative free bacon with spices. We’ve had so many people tell us it is better than store-bought. Seems to me you’ve taken the easy way out rather than exploring your options. Its also obvious with your “sponsored post” you’ve chosen money over principles. Nice…

  53. Hello! Thank you so much for decoding this for us! Much appreciated! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE ask them to make bacon without sugar! It is sooo HARD to find bacon without sugar. I’m sometimes ok with the maple but not ok with cane sugar. I just don’t think it needs it at all, either one. They could be a leader and get no sugar added bacon out there more readily available!! I would STOCK UP!! I can’t do sugar but cheat to have bacon, and pay the price. I do love Applegate products and buy some of their products! Thank you for your help! (Also see if they can get rid of the carrageenan). =)
    SO very much appreciate what you do!

  54. Did Applegate ask you not to post about any other brands? Applegate might be great but if you don’t post about any other good brands this just sounds like a commercial. I can’t believe Applegate tastes better than all of your local sources, you must live in a terrible place for farming? I’m not sure how you’re “decoding” anything without even posting the ingredient list at all? Very strange. The labels “natural”, “organic”, etc have nothing to do with bacon/hot dogs.

  55. I’m not quite sold on the idea that celery juice cured meats are substantially better than standard cured meats – I saw a study a while back from the Journal of Food Protection that tested natural hot dogs and found they had anywhere from one-half to 10 times the amount of nitrite that conventional hot dogs contained. Natural bacon had from about a third as much nitrite as normal to more than twice as much.
    Since the nitrites in celery juice are harder to control, it seems like it may be harder to add enough nitrites without adding too much. If you are trying to avoid nitrites, you need to look for something without celery juice cultures in the ingredients. And if you’re just trying to avoid the manufactured curing salt, then celery cultures may be just fine. But you’re not necessarily eating less nitrites. There’s plenty of nitrite free stuff out there, but it’s grey, not ‘pink’ – it’s just salted/seasoned/smoked.

  56. Adding to what a few have already mentioned before, nitrates and nitrites are still just that, no matter how they were derived. In fact, the nitrites from celery are arguably WORSE than nitrates that are derived from non-“natural” sources.

    “When nitrates are found naturally in vegetables, the presence of vitamins prevents their transformation into potentially risky nitrites. […]

    The same is not true for nitrates and nitrites used as preservatives in meat, regardless of whether they are labelled as “naturally occurring,” food experts say.[…]

    A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Food Protection found that “natural” hot dogs had up to 10 times the nitrites of traditional hot dogs. An investigation by Consumer Reports magazine found nitrates and nitrites in natural and traditional hot dogs are similar.”

    (Globe and Mail, Oct 2011:

  57. You should also look for the Certified Humane label. They are a non-profit certification organization that strives to improve the lives of farm animals used in food production. The companies or farms they certify meet strick guidelines for the care of animals from birth to slaughter.

  58. Thank you so much for this article! It’s like you read my mind. I was literally wondering these same things last week, totally bewildered when looking at a package of bacon at the store. And ironically, today I picked up my first 5 pounds of organic, grass-fed, local ground beef from a local farmer and his wife. Meat has been kind of the ‘last frontier’ for me as far as fully making the switch, and I always didn’t put a ton of focus on it because I am nearly vegetarian. But, we do eat some, so why not make what we do eat really ‘real’?
    Thanks Lisa!

  59. Ditto on the carrageenan; if you represent Applegate, then let them know many people won’t buy anything but the roast beef and pancetta until they get this horrible product out of their food. Natural, as in derived from seaweed, doesn’t necessarily mean something is good. For people with digestive disorders, it sends them to the hospital. Also, while I agree with most of what you are saying, for people with UC/Crohns or anything like that, salt is fine and good, but the celery powder, nitrates, call them what you want, are not good. Just a fact.

  60. I prefer to buy Organic, but I can usually only find Applegate Naturals Sunday Bacon where I shop. Do you know if their Natural Bacon is fed with GMO feed? Thanks, great and helpful post!

    1. Here’s what it says on their website:

      All Applegate Organic products and over 90% of Applegate Natural products are free of GMO ingredients.

      The following items currently contain some GMO ingredients.

      Natural Chicken Nuggets
      Natural Chicken Patty
      Natural Family Sized Chicken Nuggets
      Natural Gluten Free Family Size Chicken Nuggets
      Natural Gluten Free Chicken Nuggets
      Natural Gluten Free Chicken Tenders
      Natural Homestyle Chicken Tenders
      Natural Chicken and Maple Breakfast Sausage
      Natural Gluten Free Beef Corn Dogs
      Natural Chicken Pot Pie

    2. i emailed them to clarify this myself because i told them that their Naturals products (lunch meats, etc. ) should be on this GMO list. If it’s Naturals they are fed GMO feed! Period! I think this list shows unethical intentions because it says ingredients.

  61. “they’ve cured the meat using nitrates found in nature (from celery powder, which is listed on the ingredient label) – not the factory made version”

    Last time I checked celery didn’t come out of the garden in powder form. Celery powder is, in fact, factory made. Perhaps you meant not the synthetic version of nitrates?

  62. Applegate is so good, the only good one. But really, really expensive. Is there any other alternative to sausages, and cured meat that is as good, but a bit cheaper? We hardly eat meat and fish now, as the good stuff, the real food is so expensive. We survive on legumes.
    Please help.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Yes, it is more expensive and that is VERY difficult to get around. This is one of the reasons Lisa’s family cut back on meat consumption but also because they believe it is better consume less meat. ~Amy

  63. I want to point out that chemically derived nitrtes and those derived from celery juice are the same! They are both the same chemical compound. Celery juice isn’t better, or more natural.

    1. I agree completely! Celery juice is NOT better, and if you tend to be an individual sensitive to nitrates…these hot dogs are not for you! I had an anaphylactic response to eating these hot dogs because of the nitrates from the celery juice/powder. They taste great, but they still have nitrates!

  64. I have the same question as Jess about the need of a cooler for the trip home. And, Food Babe has conditioned me to question anything with “spices” as an ingredient, although it doesn’t stop me from consuming their Sunday Bacon!

  65. Thanks for the post! We just bought some Applegate organic hotdogs to try for this weekend. I had one question about the statement on the package that says to keep refrigerated below 40 degrees at all times. Do you do anything special when buying these products to keep them cold during checkout and the trip home? Like use a mini cooler, Or is that overkill? Just curious!

    1. All food, if perishable, has a danger zone- between 40F-14F0F bacteria will start to grow if left at this temperature for longer than 30 mins. I think its safe to transport home and straight to your fridge.

  66. Hi Lisa,
    Last semester (I teach college English and first year seminar)I used your web site for a 7 day food challenge. Today I used your website and muffin recipe (well, added to and changed a bit) to blog about your food challenge, my class challenge, and the end result of our challenges including a look at your site for info on SNAP. Go on my new food blog (Italian family recipes)and see. The name of the blog is (spell jeannette right or lots of other jeannette’s come up – who knew?)and let me know if you like what I said.I plan to list your site on my site as soon as I learn how to do a hyperlink. :)

    I intend to continue to use your site to educate students as I teach them how to write. We read excerpts from Fast Food Nation and other books about the way we process our food, and we read your info as well. You are doing such an important job educating people, yet it is so enjoyable to read your blog that my students don’t mind that I have crushed their love of fast food. :)
    Your friend,
    Joan Dahlen

    First, I hope this is OK with you and second, I hope you will put a link from your site to mine.

  67. we love this bacon. we don’t eat pork so have bought the other turkey bacon types before. but after trying the applegate, there is no going back.

  68. Also, Lisa just keep in mind that it is helpful to dairy allergic people to know there is no casein added into the bacon or hot dogs, since casein is a milk protein. That’s why many allergic families use Applegate.

  69. I try to buy Applegate Organics, but can’t always afford. So it is nice to see someone on my side represent them. But, does an all vegetarian diet for the non-organics include GMO soy & corn, etc? Have you been to any of the farms or their processing facilities? And what do the labels that say minimally processed mean? I just hope you aren’t “selling out” to the big companies…

      1. Amy, I emailed them and if it’s Naturals then they are fed GMO feed! I told them that the Naturals lunch meat line should be on the list that they are supposedly trying to phase the GMO’s out of. Just because it says there are no GMO ingredients doesn’t mean they aren’t fed GMO. I guess they don’t understand how pertinent that is! They should be in our out! Organic or not at all!

  70. I think you need to find a new farmer! The bacon we buy from our local farmer tastes AMAZING and is almost always sold out. They do season it though. Strange that yours doesn’t. :(

    1. I have to agree! We buy a cow and pig from a local farm each year and split with our neighbors ( sounds funny, but true!). The bacon is amazing. Best ever.

  71. Pamela Gammill

    Good explanations, Lisa. I wanted to add that breaded meats are not the only meats that might contain gluten. It is often added in the form of broth that is injected into the meat or poultry. Not all broths contain gluten, but those with added wheat do. I had to stop buying an organic broth because they started adding organic wheat to the broth. I am only gluten in tolerate, but for someone with Celiac disease, like both my sisters, eating the slightest amount of gluten can cause severe physical problems.

  72. Will they ever offer a sugar free version of the organic bacon? I understand organic maple syrup or organic cane sugar is natural but I have eliminated all forms of sugar (besides fruit) from my diet and I LOVE bacon and wish I could eat it.

    I do buy their hot dogs :)

  73. Thank you for the information~
    What type(s) of grain are fed? Soy, corn, wheat?
    Does Applegate offer open farm tours or photos of their facilites?