What are Nitrates?
Nitrates are added to cured and smoked meats to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria (preventing dangerous diseases such as botulism and listeria) and they are a necessary addition to our favorite lunch meats. In fact, makers are legally required to add nitrates to certain meat products to adhere to the health code that protects us. But nitrates are not just necessary— they also have the added benefit of providing the pretty reddish pink color and pleasant salty flavor we associate with American staples like bacon and summer sausage. That’s why nitrates are added to many beef and pork products such as prosciutto, ham, bacon, hot dogs, and sausages. They can be added in the form of “pink salt” or “curing salt,” or in the form of “celery salt” and/or “celery powder” as these are naturally rich in nitrate. Products cured with celery salt or celery powder are often labeled “uncured” to differentiate them from products cured with the purer form of sodium nitrate, although celery salt does indeed cause the same curing function as pink salt.
Where are Nitrates Found?
Nitrates are found in our favorite cured and smoked pork products, such as bacon and ham, along with beef sausages such as hot dogs, kielbasa and summer sausage. Whether they are in the form of pink salt or celery salt, nitrates are a necessary addition to many our favorite meat products. At Carter Country, we use celery powder to perform the important functions of nitrates, as listed above, in our summer sausage and hot links.
Why are Nitrates Used?
Nitrates ensure the safety of meat products by inhibiting bacterial growth that could
cause dangerous diseases like botulism and listeria. Nitrates also cause the pleasant red color and distinctive tangy, salty taste we associate with cured meats and sausages.
Are Nitrates Bad For You?
On a structural level, Nitrates (NO3) consist of one nitrogen atom and three oxygen atoms. Nitrates are converted in the body to nitrites (NO2) consisting of one nitrogen atom and two oxygen atoms. Nitrate (NO3) and nitrite (NO2) exist naturally in water, soil, air, and plants. Interestingly, vegetables are responsible for the vast majority of dietary nitrates - around eighty to ninety percent! By themselves, nitrates are inert, meaning they are not harmful. Bacteria in our saliva or enzymes in our body turn nitrates into nitrites, which can further be converted to nitric oxide (which is beneficial for the body) or nitrosamines (not so beneficial for the body!). Although some studies have linked high consumption of processed meats with health risks, it is important to consider that there is a big difference between eating conventional, highly processed, questionable lunch meats on a daily basis, and rotating in a few Carter Country sausages with your ethical, high-quality whole animal meat program! At Carer Country Meats, our whole animal butchery program ensures that all of our meat products, from marbled steaks to irresistible summer sausage, are made from our country certified, double-aged, grass-fed beef. We use as few additives as possible in our high-quality beef products, and the few we do use, we use for several reasons -- for your health, and for the quality of the product.