March 3 is known as National Cold Cuts Day. Cold cuts, like all meats, are a traditional food. Curing meats can be traced back to ancient times. Fresh meats were subject to decay and insect infestation, so people began drying and curing their meats to help them last longer.
As food became industrialized, meat producers began looking for shortcuts, resulting in the meats becoming denatured. Processors began adding in nitrates, which have negative health effects. At the same time, farmers began raising livestock and growing crops on separate land. So lunch meats were often sourced from factory farms. Currently, so many sandwich meats are made from feedlot animals given feeds filled with pesticides and GMOs.
While the majority of cold cuts come from unsustainable sources, there are a handful of companies dedicated to finding farms with animals raised in humane conditions for them to produce their lunch meats. And all of them continue to expand the type of deli meats to include more options.
In alphabetical order, here are the 8 best sustainably sourced deli meats:
In 1987, Stephen McDonnell and his friend Christopher Ely bought Chris’ family business Jugtown Smokehouse, which produced smoked meats without any synthetic nitrates. Stephen started Applegate with the purpose of asking “what if you weren’t afraid to read a hot dog ingredient label?” Next they made deli meat which was antibiotic free, followed by introducing the first widely distributed deli meat with an organic certification. In 2015, all of their beef products became 100% grass fed. In addition to their grass fed roast beef and pepperoni, Applegate has organic deli slices of salami, ham, chicken, and turkey.
The Creminelli family comes from Biella, Italy, where they ‘ve been making artisan salami for centuries. Cristiano Creminelli began running the production for their salami when he was 25, earning his family an official recognition by Italy’s cultural ministry as Artisans of Excellence. In 2006, Cristiano moved to Utah to form Creminelli Fine Meats with business partners Chris Bowler and Jared Lynch and introduce the United States to his family’s artisanally cured charcuterie. Creminelli offers a diverse variety of salamis, including genoa, sopressata, calabrese, and varzi, along with prosciutto.
Back in 1949, Jack Diestel founded the Diestel Family Ranch based on philosophies and techniques he had learned from his Great Uncle Earnest. The farm remains in the family, maintaining the Diestel commitment to lean, clean, and delicious poultry. Recently Tim and Joan Diestel transitioned the business over to their children Heidi and Jason. The Diestels practice methods of regenerative agriculture and holistic farming to help rebuild the soil and restore biodiversity. Diestel composts its organic waste not only for fertilizer on their farm, but for other commercial farmers and even school gardens as well. They use fresh well water to clean their barns and pipes. They’re able to use less groundwater for farming as they have a membrane water technology system, which eliminates the need to use chemicals. Diestel’s turkey comes in various flavors, such as smoked, oven roasted, and honey roasted. Plus they sell antibiotic free black forest ham.
Herb and Kathy Eckhouse started La Quercia a little over a decade ago to create a premium quality American prosciutto based on what they had learned living for three and a half years in Parma, Italy, where prosciutto originates from. Along with taste, sustainability is a top priority for La Quercia. They source their pork from farmers who treat their animals and land responsibly. The vast majority of their pigs comes from within a 200-mile radius both of both where the animals are raised and the slaughterhouses where they’re processed. Their pork is cured with sea salt from the United States and organic spices when possible. The La Quercia facility uses energy efficient technology and eco-friendly packaging. While La Quercia’s main focus is prosciutto, they also cure salami, pepperoni, and pancetta.
Old World Naturals
Old World Naturals is a collection launched by a fourth generation family in the deli meat business. Old World is proud to now be sourcing its meats from sustainable farms. They’re currently looking at new ways to support sustainability and regenerative agriculture on a larger scale. In terms of their current practices, they use 100% grass fed beef for their roast beef, corned beef, and pastrami. Old World Naturals’ other cold cuts are made with antibiotic free turkey and nitrate free ham.
Oliviero Colmignoli’s family has been curing salami since 1850 with roots in Norcia, Italy. In 1900, Oliviero’s great grandfather moved the company to Rome for a larger market and opened stores throughout the city. Then in 1950, his grandfather formed a manufacturing business. Oliviero was born in 1978 and learned how to cure meats at a young age. In 2000, he joined his grandfather’s company to learn more about curing pork. Ten years later, he formed his own salami brand known as Olli Salumeria in Virginia. Most recently in 2015, Oliverio moved his work to Oceanside, CA for a larger facility and to be able to sell nationwide. Olli makes salamis in the flavor of genoa, sopressata, and calabrese. They also produce pepperoni and prosciutto.
In 1988, seven Wisconsin farmers in the Coulee region were fed up with industrial chemical farming taking over the American agriculture system. They created a cooperative of family farms known as CROPP (Coulee Region Organic Produce Pool). The coop later became Organic Valley, specializing in organic dairy. In 1996, they moved into the meat industry. They were the first in the industry to ban animal by-products from a cow’s diet. Today, they’re a cooperative of over 2,000 farms in 34 states plus Canada and Australia. Organic Valley’s deli slices consist of 100% grass fed roast beef and organic pepperoni, ham, chicken breast, and turkey breast.
True Story Foods
The people running True Story are third-generation food producers who have visited farms throughout America and Europe. Their methods for making their products go back to the way their fathers and grandfathers did things. True Story says their mission extends way beyond putting food on people’s plates by running a business which supports farmers, producers, and growers so we have a sustainable world for the future generations. True Story Foods’ line of cleaner deli meats includes organic pepperoni, applewood smoked ham, chicken breast, and turkey breast.