Tyson has removed nitrates and added nitrates from its popular Ball Park brand of hot dogs. It also eliminated by-products and added fillers from its meat line, according to Food Business News.
“Consumers want more transparency when it comes to what’s in the food they eat, and we want them to know we’re listening," Colleen Hall, director of the Ball Park brand, told the publication.
Meat processors have made changes to how they preserve meats from bacterial contamination. Some are using a blend of sea salt and celery powder to eliminate the need for synthetic curing agents like nitrates.
Tyson's push toward greater transparency is in line with consumer interest in learning more about the food they eat. Shoppers increasingly have a growing desire for cleaner labels with fewer, more understandable ingredients and without added fillers and by-products. Considering how many hot dogs are consumed each year, the summer favorite is a good place to start. An estimated 7 billion hot dogs are consumed in the US between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
One challenge in promoting a clean label is defining what "clean" actually means. An official clean label definition by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or Food and Drug Administration could help clear up manufacturer and consumer confusion over the concept. Food manufacturers who comply with the new standards would be able to benefit by promoting it to its customers, potentially with a special label. Similar problems occurred with organic before the government developed specific standards for companies to follow — allowing the once nascent industry to flourish.
In meat, consumer interest in clean label meat has caused sales growth for those products to outpace that of conventional meat, according to recent Nielsen data. While sales remain a small slice of the total meat market, which are about $50 billion annually, they are expected to grow. For meat processors looking to find the next hot product to help boost revenue, cleaning up products is a potentially lucrative option — assuming people continue to be willing to pay more for these foods.