By Mike on Friday, June 20, 2008, 19:49 - Permalink
June 2008 - A new supermarket price war has been declared, The weapons in this war are... sausages
One of the major UK supermarket chains announced their intention to start selling sausages for two pence each. Two English Pennies for a sausage.
Other supermarkets jumped hastily on the bandwagon, matching the offer.
Obviously, this sparked a bit of attention from the media, food critics and writers, gourmands, food enthusiasts and assorted other interested parties. Would the sausages be fit for human consumption? Would they contain any meat at all? Was this a sign of the apocalypse?
Let's find out
I'm sure I'm not the first to write about this, but I decided to investigate. I bought, examined, cooked and ate a pack of these famously cheap sausages - and I'm going to tell you all about it.
The Famous 2p Sausages
Here they are - this pack of eight bangers cost me 16 pence.
The first - and probably most important - thing to note, is that these are not sausages that have been specially manufactured to be sold at 16 pence a pack - they are in fact just Tesco's own 'value' brand sausages - that have always been available in this form and recipe.
So what we're seeing here is not a sausage phenomenon - it's merely a promotional one.
Examining The Pack
Before we get to the sausages themselves, let's take a good, close look at the information provided on the pack...
The Front label
454g of sausages - 56g per sausage (I tested this and the declared weight was true), or 28g of sausage per penny.
There's an at-a-glance nutrition information panel on there - pointing out that two of these sausages contributes one-third of your RDA of salt, and one-fifth of your RDA of saturated fat
The front label also informs us that the pork in the sausages is produced according to Tesco's livestock standards - which, on its own, means nothing much at all (its not as if they would sell them something that fell short of their standards - that's what standards are for - isn't it?)
Tesco's policies on livestock can be perused here - they seem fairly reasonable, although I'm sure animal welfare campaigners would probably pick them up on lack of quantitative data. Take a look and make up your own mind...
The Ingredients And Nutrition Panels
Crikey, that's a lot of text. Let's try to summarise the composition:
40% Pork, supplemented with a stabilised mix of water, fat and wheat starch, protein and flour, plus some other stuff for flavouring and preservation, plus rusks.
That's not a particularly large amount of meat (around 60% is typical for standard bangers - 'butcher' sausages typically contain more still), but at the same time, it's not astonishingly low either - I've seen other brands - even those not specifically marketed as low budget foods - with a smaller percentage.
This is where I got a bit confused - because I can't make the figures add up. The chart below is taken from the stated breakdown per 100g of raw product:
The stated nutritional components add up to 46.2% of the sausage - we know there's less than 40% water, because the ingredients have to be stated in descending order of quantity. So there's at least 14% - probably more - of the sausage that isn't fat, protein, carbohydrate, fibre, or water, despite it having to be from one or more of the declared ingredients.
If anyone reading this can suggest a plausible identity for the missing matter, please let me know...
Anyway, I guess that's enough waffle - let's take our first look at the sausages themselves.
Out of the pack, they look like - well - they look like sausages - they're conspicuously soft to handle, and they're a bit pink and featureless.
So, above, I looked at the information on the packaging, and what it might be telling us - here, we're looking at the sausages themselves - in the flesh... well... 40% flesh, that is...
Taking one out of its skin was quite interesting - it really is quite a smooth, sticky paste inside, rather than something I could honestly describe as sausagemeat.
So, into the pan they go - I'm cooking four of them without their skins - for a number of reasons - the main one being that my kids prefer them that way, but it also offers another way to examine them as they cook, and when they're done.
I started with the eight sausages in the pan - four of them have the skins removed - as my kids prefer them that way - but it will also be interesting to see if the skinless ones cook differently.
After 20 minutes or so of gentle frying, they were turning nicely golden brown - the skinless ones were developing a distinct and crunchy crust (must be all that wheat, I think). There was about half a centimetre of fat in the bottom of the pan - all from the sausages.
When they were done, I weighed them. The ordinary ones had reduced from 56g to 52g - mostly from exuded fat - although a little of the weight loss will have been water.
The skinless ones had dropped to 41g - that's more than 25% lost weight.
Eating The Sausages
I served them up with fried potatoes, beans and an egg.
The Final Verdict
OK, here it is - the unvarnished truth.
They're not bad.
Seriously - I know a lot of people will be willing me to say they were foul or inedible, or deeply sub-standard or something. They're not - they're... OK. They're certainly nothing to rant and rave about, but there's nothing particularly bad about them either.
The flavour was fair - they were quite succulent (all that fat, I bet) and nicely seasoned. They're not at all 'meaty' or chunky in texture - in fact they're quite soft - it's a bit like eating a sausage already in a bun (which I guess is all the wheat). But you can actually taste the pork.
The kids thought they were quite good - in fact they enjoyed them more than they would enjoy a more substantial and meaty sausage
A Bit Of A Surprise Then
Yes. A bit of a surprise. I'm determined not to be too snobby about this - and I refuse to imagine a problem where none is apparent - It is true to say that I do also enjoy a really good-quality, meaty, solid, chunky butcher sausage - and these tuppenny sausages aren't anywhere close to that. But they're not trying to be - they're just trying to be cheap, ordinary bangers - and it cannot be denied that they achieve some measure of success in achieving that.
So there it is. I cannot see any objective reason to hold these to absolute scorn. Too soft? Too fatty? So what? - people eat (and wildly enthuse about) other soft, fatty things (Foie Gras, anyone?). They're not going to satisfy everyone, but nothing does that anyway.
When I get a chance, I'll pick up packs of the budget sausages other supermarkets have on offer, for comparison.