how is deli ham made

Title How Is Deli Ham Really Made? The Truth Behind the Viral Ham Video

A viral TikTok video recently sent the internet into a tizzy by revealing the shocking process behind how deli ham is made. The eye-opening footage shows a Pepto Bismol-pink goop being molded into loaves and sliced into sandwich meat, leaving many viewers horrified and reconsidering their ham consumption.

But is this really how our beloved deli ham is made? Let’s take a closer look at the viral video that has everyone buzzing, what the ham-making process actually entails, and whether you need to swear off sandwiches for good.

The Viral Deli Ham Video – What’s Shown

The TikTok video in question depicts a large vat of bright pink slime being thoroughly mixed, resembling strawberry ice cream at first glance. The goo is then poured into loaf pans, baked, and sliced, magically transforming into typical rectangle slices of ham.

“I don’t want to believe this,” the TikTok caption reads, capturing the sentiment of millions of dismayed viewers.

Reactions have ranged from comparisons to Ghostbusters and disbelief that “chemicals” are being used to make food, to many vowing off processed meats for good after seeing the footage.

The video does seem suspect at first. Surely our deli meat isn’t just pink mush transformed into an edible state? Is this really what’s inside our ham sandwiches? Let’s explore further.

How Deli Ham Is Actually Made

While shocking, the viral footage isn’t too far off from reality. The actual process of making a processed deli ham does involve mechanically mixing pork and other ingredients into a homogenous blend that is then molded, cooked, and sliced.

Here’s a step-by-step look at how deli ham is made by manufacturers:

  • Pork shoulder and leg cuts are fed through separators which mechanically remove bone, fat, and connective tissue.

  • The meat, along with added water, salt, and curing agents, is run through grinders to create a finely minced texture.

  • The mixture goes into a vacuum tumbler that blends everything together into a smooth, consistent batter.

  • The batter is poured into molds, pressed into shape, then baked at low temps until fully cooked through.

  • After cooling, the molded ham “loaves” are sliced and packaged for sale.

So while not as appetizing as watching a butcher slice up a fresh ham, the viral footage does capture the basic process fairly accurately. The use of mechanical separation and binders allows deli ham to have that uniform color and texture.

Understanding the Ingredients in Deli Ham

Besides pork, deli ham contains additional ingredients for flavor, preservation, and binding. Some standard additives include:

  • Water – Keeps the ham moist and pliable.

  • Salt – For curing and flavor.

  • Sugar – Balances out saltiness and supports curing.

  • Nitrates/Nitrites – Preservatives that inhibit bacterial growth.

  • Phosphates – Help retain moisture and improve slicing.

  • Corn syrup solids – Thicken and sweeten the ham.

  • Carrageenan – Vegetarian-sourced binder.

  • Celery powder – Adds flavor and nitrates naturally.

While the long list may seem questionable to some, these are all FDA-approved GRAS (generally recognized as safe) ingredients commonly used across the processed meat industry.

Why Use Mechanical Separation and Mixing?

Instead of using whole cuts of pork, deli ham relies on mechanical separation to extract every last bit of protein from the carcass. This produces a very fine, paste-like meat texture that on its own wouldn’t hold together well.

That’s why binders and extenders are added to create a matrix that allows the processed meat to be molded into a solid, sliceable loaf. It gives deli ham that uniform appearance and “clean” texture many consumers expect.

The mixing and molding produces a meat product vastly different from an artisanal whole-muscle ham. But it allows deli ham to be mass-produced for much lower costs. The smooth texture also makes it easy to pile high on sandwiches.

Is Deli Meat Less Healthy Than Whole Cuts?

With all the processing and additives involved, it’s natural to question whether deli meats are less healthy than fresh pork. There are a few considerations:

  • Salt/Nitrite Content – Curing agents are added in higher levels than with whole meats. Excess sodium intake has been linked to health issues.

  • Preservatives – Ingredients like nitrites have been associated with cancer when eaten in high amounts. But they allow longer shelf life.

  • Oxidation – Blending and emulsifying meat can increase oxidation, which may contribute to inflammation in the body.

  • Nutrients – Some nutrients are lost in processing compared to whole cuts of pork. However, deli meats are still good sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

  • Artificial Ingredients – Binders and fillers make deli meats more processed than fresh meat. But they have been deemed safe by regulators.

Overall, eating deli meats in moderation as part of a balanced diet is considered safe for most people. But limiting consumption, especially for children and pregnant women, is often recommended out of precaution.

Do Viral Food Videos Like This Bother Consumers?

Seeing exactly how hot dogs, crab sticks, and now ham are mass-produced can definitely be alarming for consumers. It highlights just how processed some foods are before ending up neatly packaged at the supermarket.

But these videos sometimes use shock factor without full context, making many products seem less appetizing than they really are. While deli ham contains various stabilizers and extenders, these ingredients are regulated and not hazardous at typical intake levels.

However, these exposés can serve as a reminder to limit ultra-processed foods in the diet and enjoy them in moderation as treats rather than dietary staples. And if the behind-the-scenes footage is off-putting, choosing less-processed whole food alternatives is never a bad idea for better nutrition.

The Takeaway: Enjoy Deli Ham in Moderation

At the end of the day, the main takeaway is that despite the sensationalism of “pink slime” videos, deli ham can still be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. As with many foods, moderation is key.

Rather than everyday bologna sandwiches, save deli meats for an occasional quick lunch or appetizing addition to a charcuterie board. Balance out processed ham snacks with plenty of fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins.

And if you really can’t stomach the thought of mechanical separation and curing salts, seek out high-quality, artisanal hams with simpler ingredient lists. A little label reading and mindful eating can let you savor ham’s savory taste without going whole hog on the health risks.

So next time you’re making a sandwich or need a tasty protein boost, don’t be afraid to throw some deli ham between those slices. Just be sure to buy quality brands and keep intake in check to feel good about what you’re eating. Moderation and balance is key to enjoying all foods, no matter what their production process looks like.

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