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14 Jun 2013

Which? investigates the true cost of meat products

Do your sausages offer value for money?

A closerlook at labels on popular supermarket sausages and burgers reveals that cheaper products might not offer as much value for money as you think.

Which? research found that supermarket own-brand ranges can offer much better value than some leading brands. Richmond sausages contain 42% meat, the same as a Sainsbury's Basics pork sausage. However, Richmond sausages cost £2.40 - Sainsbury's Basics cost 80p.

Or you could pay 59p more than Richmond and double the amount of pork you get with Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Ultimate Outdoor Bred pork sausages (£2.99, 97% pork).

How to spot quality meat products video guide

Chef Adam Byatt gives us his expert tips on how to judge the quality of your meat products.

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Cost of meat

Which? calculated the amount you pay for the actual meat in the sausage (not considering the cost of fillers, such as water, flour, fat and rind).

  • £12.59 per kg for Richmond sausages (£2.40, 454g, 42% pork)
  • £7.71 per kg for Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Ultimate Outdoor Bred pork sausages (£2.99, 400g, 97% pork)
  • £4.20 per kg for Sainsbury's Basics pork sausages (80p, 454g, 42% pork).

Similarly, the beef in Bird's Eye Original beef burgers (1.45, 22g 77% beef) costs shoppers £8.30 per kg, compared to £6.12 per kg for Tesco 1/4 lb Beef burgers (£2.50, 454g, 90% beef).

Products with higher meat contents often offer better value for money, especially as a sausage or burger with higher meat content contains more protein and so keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

Is it a sausage or a pork sausage?

It's important to know what goes into the food we eat, especially in light of the horsemeat scandal. Meat products contain meat but also other ingredients - water, rusk and extra fat, for example.

So while mince is still meat, a burger is a meat product. As are sausages, ham, bacon and breaded chicken.

Some meat products, including sausages and burgers, have reserved descriptions and must meet minimum meat requirements. To be called a 'pork sausage' a product must contain a minimum of 42% pork.

Yet a 'sausage' can contain much less: either 32% pork, 26% chicken or 30% beef or lamb.

And an economybeef burger must contain a minimum of 47% beef, whereas a beef burger must contain at least 62% beef. A hamburger can contain beef, pork or a mixture of both with at least 62% meat.

Proposed government changes

Our research told us eight in 10 people check the ingredient and meat content on labelling, but the governments of England, Wales and Northern Ireland are proposing to weaken the current regulation and decriminalise food labelling violations.

If these changes go ahead, it would mean those responsible for horsemeat entering the food chain wouldn't have committed a criminal offence.

The government in England is also proposing to drop the Quantitative Ingredient Declarations (QUID) on meat products sold loose - for example, in butchers, on supermarket meat counters, delis and farmers' markets. So shoppers wouldn't be able to tell the meat content and couldn't work out which offered best value for money.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: 'It's important that people know what they're getting so they can make an informed choice. In the wake of the horsemeat scandal, we want the Government to think again over its plans to decriminalise food labelling offences to help restore trust in the food industry.'

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