Here’s what’s in the best and worst deli meats on the shelf.

Pick up most packaged deli meats you’ll find at the grocery store and take a close look at the ingredients list. You may be surprised by what you find.

Many deli meat brands have to mask the appearance and flavor of their deli meats by adding a host of flavor enhancers, emulsifiers, preservatives, stabilizers, and binders. Here are just a few common additives found in commodity deli meat, and what they are.

Turkey flavor/“flavorings”: Yikes! If a product needs extra meat flavor to taste like meat, there’s something wrong. Also, what does this even mean? When companies use words like “turkey flavor,” “flavorings,” “natural flavorings,” or (our favorite) “natural chicken type flavor,” you know they’re not relying on the quality of the meat to speak for itself.

Sodium Erythorbate, Sodium Propionate, Sodium Diacetate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Nitrite: All of these sodium salts are used as preservatives to extend shelf life, and sometimes as seasoning agents. Some of the worst offenders contain every single one of these!

Sodium Phosphates: This compound is used to keep meat products moist as in “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, though other studies call this into question. In pharmaceuticals, it’s also used as a laxative.

Maltodextrin: This is a highly processed starch that usually originates in corn, potatoes or rice, and is high on the glycemic index. Some brands use it as an inexpensive binding agent.

Carrageenan: Derived from a kind of seaweed, used to thicken or emulsify the texture of some deli meats.

Propylene glycol: This synthetic food additive that is used to absorb moisture is “generally recognized as safe”, according to the FDA. It’s also used to de-ice airport runways. Enough said.

Autolyzed Yeast Extract: Yum, autolyzed yeast extract! (Said no one ever). This flavoring agent contains low levels of glutamate, the amino acid found in MSG.

Corn syrup: Some brands use corn syrup to add sweetness to ham as a cheaper alternative to natural brown sugar. We use a touch of organic brown sugar in our Organic Uncured Applewood Smoked Ham.

Caramel color: Get this: instead of browning their meats through a spice rub and roasting process, some large deli meat brands just use caramel color to mimic the appearance of browning. No, thanks!

We believe deli meats should be made from humanely raised meats and nothing extra, just the way you would make them at home. We start with high-quality meat raised with respect on small family farms. Then we use only whole muscle, butcher cuts, which we slow roast or smoke to bring out the meat’s natural flavor. And we never use fillers, nitrites or nitrates, artificial colors or flavors, artificial preservatives, MSG, or carrageenan—that’s our clean ingredient promise.

Find our deli meats at a retailer near you via on our Where to Buy page, or order online. Our deli meat bundle is a convenient way to get all your favorite all-natural deli meats delivered straight to your doorstep, including our kid-approved snack packs. So when the sandwich craving strikes, you know you can feel good about what’s inside—and it’ll taste even better!