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sausage faqs

Sausage FAQs


1. How do you select specialist sausage producers?
2. How do you evaluate sausages?
3. Are you impartial?
4. Can I suggest a sausage producer?
5. Where can I find information about your terms of use and privacy policy?
6. How frequently will the directory be updated?
7. Does the directory cover Ireland?
8. How do you select your top 10?
9. What's in sausage meat?
10.Can I make sausages at home?
11. What should I look for when buying sausages?
12. Labels are often difficult to understand - what should I avoid?
13. How much should I pay for good sausages?
14. What does high welfare mean?
15. Should high welfare mean that pigs are kept outdoors?
16. What is the difference between a cheap sausage and an expensive sausage
17. Do supermarkets sell good sausages?
18. What is so special about organic sausages?
19. What is so special about rare breed sausages?
20. The rare breeds are in danger of extinction - should we eat them at all?
21. Why are organic and rare breed sausages expensive?
22. Why can't I buy rare breed or organic sausages at supermarkets?
23. How long can I store sausages?
24. How do I cook sausages?
25. Do I need to prick sausage skins before cooking?
26. What are sausage skins made of?
27. What does 'gluten free' mean?
28. Are sausages healthy?
29. How many calories are there in the typical sausage?


1. How do you select specialist producers?
Because we like the sausages they make and how they are made. We have tried at least one sausage from every featured producer, in most cases several. Selected producers use quality meat and have excellent local reputations. They are frequently award winners and in many cases are accredited by the Soil Association (organic) or the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

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2. How do you evaluate sausages?
We are mainly concerned with taste, texture and fat content. We cook them simply by slow frying or baking and eat them hot and cold. It is vital to try cold sausages (sausage competitions do). Tasting cold sausages allows us to assess the texture and fat content and many think cold sausages actually taste better anyway! We normally use a tasting panel ranging from 3 to 60 years.

More information on competitions (where sausages are judged, not where you win prizes!).

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3. Are you impartial?
Yes - we are independent of all food bodies and are totally impartial. We even pay for the sausages!

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4. Can I suggest a producer?
Yes please. You can nominate a producer or submit your thoughts (good and bad) on any of the producers in our directory. You can also provide feedback on supermarket and branded sausages, submit a recipe or ask a question.

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5. Where can I find information about your terms of use and privacy policy?
Links are included at the bottom of every page and they can also be accessed here: Terms and conditions, Privacy policy.

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6. How frequently will the directory be updated?
The directory is constantly evolving, entries will be changed and new producers will also be added as soon as we find them or users nominate them. We welcome your feedback on the directory and the site; please follow this link to provide your feedback.

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7. Does the directory cover Ireland?
The directory does not currently cover Ireland; however we are working on this and hope to include Northern Ireland and Eire within the next few months. Please contact us if you would like to nominate a producer in Ireland.

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8. How do you select your top 10?
These are the sausages producers we keep coming back to. They consistently taste good, offer a good range of sausages and other products and provide excellent service through either the internet or over the counter. Several are also respected leaders in farming and production methods.

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9. What's in a sausage?
"Laws are like sausages. It's better not to see them being made."
Otto Von Bismarck 1815 - 1898

They can be made with any meat but most sausages eaten in the UK are pork sausages made with pork meat, fat, a cereal filler, water, herbs and spices.

You may not want to know what goes into sausages at the bottom end of the market. A typical recipe might look like: 30% pork fat, 20% recovered meat, 30% rusk and soya, 15% water and 5% assorted e-numbers, flavourings, sugar, flavour enhancer, preservative, colour etc etc. It is a sad fact that this type of sausages is likely to be served in schools and hospitals.

At the top end the list will be much shorter: 40% belly pork, 40% boned shoulder of pork, 10% breadcrumbs, 5% water and 5% herbs and spices.

Still buying the cheap sausages?

See health and legal for more information on additives.

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10. Can I make sausages at home?
Yes! They are easier that you think and you do not need a sausage machine; see making sausages in the recipe section.

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11. What should I look for when buying sausages?
If you are buying for taste look for juicy, plump sausages a high meat content (70% or more), quality British meat, fresh herbs and natural skins (see FAQ 12 - Labels and what to avoid).

Good sausages are made with high welfare meat: a happy animal makes for better meat. Sausages made with organic and rare breed meat are usually good and are growing in popularity. They are more expensive but are usually worth paying extra for.

British pork has some of the highest standards in the world. You want to see proof that you are buying British pork, either a clear statement saying this, the Quality Standard Mark or the Little Red Tractor Mark. Look for a short list of ingredients with few or no E numbers. Any good butcher will love to talk about his sausages and tell you this, if not walk away!

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12. Labels are often difficult to understand - what should I avoid?
Be suspicious of sausages which have packaging that appears to be British but doesn't carry any of the British quality marks. They are probably made in the UK using cheap imported meat. Sausages made with artificial skins (made with collagen or even plastic) are usually poor standard. The label will list the ingredients in order with the largest first; avoid those containing a high proportion of water.

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13. How much should I pay for good sausages?
Typically a good sausage will cost around £3 per pound (which is £6.75 per kilo). In comparison cheap supermarket sausages cost less than £2 per kilo. Top quality organic or rare breed sausages can be as much as £4 per pound (which is £8.80 per kilo).

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14. What does high welfare mean?
Most of the pork we buy is from factory farmed animals. In most cases this means a host of unsavoury practices including:

· Overcrowding
· Concrete floors
· Restricted movement
· Teeth clipping and tail docking
· Castration
· Growth promoters
· Pre-emptive medication
· Leg problems due to rapid growth
· Stressful slaughter arrangements

Factory farming aims to produce cheap, lean meat. Without enough fat pork is dry and tasteless, let alone the issues about the conditions in which the animals are kept.

High welfare tries to avoid these methods and is based on the premise that happy animals will produce better meat which will ultimately taste better.

The proof for this comes from the supermarkets themselves - most of the pork they sell is factory farmed but nearly all offer a premium range which is invariably described as 'outdoor reared'.

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15. Should high welfare mean that pigs are kept outdoors?
There is a long standing debate on the subject of whether it is better for high welfare pigs to be reared indoors or outdoors. The initial view is that it must surely be better for pigs to live outdoors - after all, this how they lived as wild animals. This is certainly right for the rare breeds. However some farmers feel that the commercial breeds are no longer suitable for outdoor life because they cannot cope with the heat of summer and the cold of winter. This is because breeding has removed the fat and hair needed to cope with summer heat and winter cold.

Certainly high welfare farmers agree that intensive methods such as growth promoters, tail docking and nail clipping should be avoided. Where pigs are kept indoors, it should be on straw and in light, airy barns with room to move about and outdoor access. The diet should be varied, pig swill should be avoided (remember foot & mouth?) and pre-emptive medication should not be used. Lastly, all quality producers will take great care to ensure that pigs are slaughtered properly at local abattoirs.

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16. What is the difference between a cheap and expensive sausage
You can buy the cheapest sausages for 50p per pound, typical premium sausages will cost up to £3 per pound. At worst a cheap sausage is a tube of pink fat. Compared to a premium sausage it has less meat, and more added fat. Cheap sausages also contain more water, filler (e.g. rusk), additives and chemicals. The 'meat' used in a cheap sausage will often include skin, rind, gristle and bone but the meat in a better sausage will come from a recognisable cut of meat which could grace your Sunday lunch table.

Cheap sausages often contain high levels of saturated flare fat which is unhealthy and bad for cholesterol levels. Lastly, economy sausages might contain pork cheek or jowl. These contain the pituitary glands which is where any drug residues or disease are concentrated, which might lead to risks for humans.

Pound for pound, a quality sausage might contain twice as much lean meat as a cheaper version. They will be made with natural sausages skins and better quality seasonings and spices. Lastly, the butcher making the good sausage will probably know where the meat comes from and how it was reared.

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17. Do supermarkets sell good sausages?
The supermarkets generally offer three ranges of sausages - premium, standard and economy. Most premium ranges include good sausages and there are excellent brands such as Duchy Originals and Porkinson. Unfortunately the economy ranges are some of the worst offenders.

Happily, the majority of our loose sausages are still brought from butchers. Given the choice I would always go for a good butchers or farm shop sausage.

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18. What is so special about organic sausages?
Organic means high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection. Less intensive methods, fewer drugs, lower stress and a better diet mean good but expensive meat. Everything that goes into an organic animal must be certified as organic, this leads to high administration costs. Many of us are enthusiastic about organic food, there are also many critics and doubters who query whether any animal or crop grown outside can ever be truly organic - this is a debate for another forum!

We need to be aware that many farmers rear animals to organic or near organic standards but do not obtain certification. These animals will still produce high quality meat. Ultimately it's your choice: Do you want to pay more for the comfort of eating meat which is certified as organic?

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19. What is so special about rare breed sausages?
Rare breeds mature slowly; they live outdoors and develop the muscles and fat needed to survive outside. This gives them a higher fat content and a special taste and texture. In many ways the debate is about fat: fat gives taste and succulence but to many the rare breeds carry too much fat. As a fan of rare breed meat I would suggest that you try it at least once, it may convert you!

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST ) recognises seven rare breed pigs:

· British Lop
· Tamworth
· Berkshire
· Large Black
· Middle White
· Saddleback; and
· Gloucestershire Old Spot

The RBST has an excellent website which contains more information on rare breeds and also lists accredited butchers which sell rare breed meat. A number of these butchers are included in specialist producers.

There has been a resurgence of interest in rare breed meat because people have realised how much better it tastes. This has been led by many of our top restaurants and chefs who use rare breed meat because of its superior taste. This was illustrated at the 2003 Great Taste awards where sausages made with rare breed pork won the gold medal and one of two silvers.

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20. The rare breeds are in danger of extinction - should we eat them at all?
Yes, they are animals which are bred to be eaten. By eating them we create the demand which encourages more farmers to keep them and safeguards the future of the breed.

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21. Why are organic and rare breed sausages expensive?
High welfare means high production costs. In most cases this leads to better meat which can be tasted in the sausages - you get what you pay for!

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22. Why can't I buy rare breed or organic sausages at supermarkets?
Some supermarkets sell organic sausages (such as the Helen Browning sausages sold by Sainsbury's and Morrisons and Tesco's own brand). They do not sell rare breed meat because it is not currently produced in large enough quantities (this is debatable), supermarkets may also have concerns about customers reactions to the fat content.

Despite this I would not be surprised to see a rare breed sausage in Waitrose, Tesco Finest or Sainsbury's Taste the Different ranges being touted as the 'next big thing'.

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23. How long can I store sausages?
Generally 2 -3 days in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer. Many butchers sell preservative free sausages which must be cooked within 1 or 2 days of purchase or frozen immediately.

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24. How do I cook sausages?
The basic methods are fry, grill or bake. Whichever method you use, try to cook the sausages slowly and never prick a good sausage. Slow cooking reduces the risk of bursting and leads to the development of sticky, bronzed sausage. There are many sausage recipes and these and cooking methods are included in recipes.

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25. Do I need to prick sausage skins before cooking?
Never prick a quality sausage! They have natural sausage skins and your holes will let all moisture and taste out.

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26. What are sausage skins made of?
Natural skins are made of the intestines of pigs, sheep or cow's intestines. The natural skins are semi permeable and allow the sausage to 'breath' during cooking - letting some fat out and keeping the juices in. Artificial skins are made from collagen which is normally from cow skin, these tend to be used by the poorer quality sausages and are not used by many of†the 700 Producers listed on the site.

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27. What does 'gluten free' mean?
It means that the product does not contain any wheat products such as breadcrumbs or rusk. Gluten free sausages are suitable for coeliacs. They are often made with 100% meat with no filler, as such are often excellent sausages.

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28. Are sausages healthy?
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) published a survey on sausages in September 2003

They found that a typical portion of sausages (which is only 2!) could contain around a quarter of an adults recommended daily fat intake and a typical sausage meal of sausages, chips beans could provide around 70% of the recommended daily salt intake. As with most of the better things in life, it seems that we should eat sausages in moderation - and if so we should try to eat the best we can!

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29. How many calories are there in the typical sausage?
The FSA found that sausages contained roughly 300 calories per 100g. Assuming that sausages weigh around 75g (6 per pound), this means that an average sausage contains 225 calories. Reduced fat sausages contained an average of 162 calories per 100g - nearly half the average. Reduced fat sausages are clearly better for us, but do they taste good? See our review to find out.

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sausage faqs