Although it was written nearly a century ago, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, an exposé of the Chicago meat-packing industry, still has the power to make people think twice about what goes into their sausages. (Among the secret ingredients back then: severed digits of unfortunate workers.)
Thanks to food and workplace safety regs, such accidental additions are a thing of the past. And at Vermont Smoke and Cure in Barre, the links are “cleaner than most,” attests CEO Chris Bailey: “We don’t use MSG or artificial colors or artificial smoke in anything.”
But, for consumers seeking an extra level of assurance about their meat purchases, the company has been slowly adding a line of all-natural products made from antibiotic- and artificial-hormone-free meats, cured without the use of sodium nitrate. The newest addition, an all-natural summer sausage, will be on store shelves by the end of the month.
VS&C already sells all-natural ham and bacon, and its fresh sausages fit the bill, too. Why not make all-natural everything? Bailey says not every customer is willing to pay more for the label. For the same reason, the company doesn’t yet offer organic items. “The pricing can start to get challenging for people,” Bailey says. “Especially with processed products.”
Nonetheless, he notes, “We’re easing our way towards that. It’s something we’re wanting to do.” One item currently “on the drawing board” would make use of organic Vermont beef.
But before the mysterious beef item hits the market, VS&C will re-envision the Slim Jim. “It’s a few more weeks away,” Bailey says of the company’s all-natural snack sticks. “One is cracked pepper, and the other is barbecue.”