Understanding Minimally Processed Meat: 8 Key Facts

Minimally processed meats are a healthier, tastier option with no additives, supporting local farmers; avoid processed meats high in sodium and preservatives.

what does minimally processed meat mean

In a world where most people have yet to learn where their food truly comes from, it is a good idea to know at least what to look for when buying meat, mainly minimally processed meats. Minimally processed meats help balance your sodium levels while still eating good-tasting protein. 

Minimally processed meat is excellent for people looking for a way to eat meat without inflating their sodium levels. This is because minimally processed meats don’t contain preservatives and additives like other processed meats and therefore are a healthier and tastier option.  

Minimally processed meats are generally more expensive than processed meats because they are prime cuts and because of their short shelf life. So here are a couple of things to know about minimally processed meat and what to look out for. 

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What Is Considered As Minimally Processed Meat?

Meat that has been minimally processed has had virtually no changes made after it was slaughtered. The primary benefit of purchasing minimally processed meats is the increased culinary freedom it affords the consumer. In contrast, processed meat aims to ensure the product’s longevity for the end customer. More on that later.

Minimally Processed Meat Has A Shorter Shelf Life

Fresh, whole cuts, portioned, or frozen bits of protein with no preservatives or additives make up minimally processed meat. Fresh protein has a very short shelf life of about 3-5 days in the fridge. Frozen and vacuum-sealed meat products can last between 3-12 months in the freezer

Other minimally processed meats include meat that has been freshly ground from entire cuts and meat that has previously been frozen or chilled shortly after slaughter. 

Proteins that have undergone little processing include those where the inedible or unpalatable components have been removed. The product is then either sold as is or preserved by freezing and vacuum sealing. Cutting into smaller portions and seasoning the meat is also considered minimally processed.

Some examples of benefits of eating minimally processed include.

  • You receive fresher meat products
  • It has a natural taste  
  • The healthier option since there are no preservatives or additives
  • Fewer chemicals and fillers are added
  • Helps local farmers and small businesses  

Things To Know About The Dangers Of Processed Meats

Although minimally processed and processed can be wildly different, it depends on the manufacturer, so it is essential to read the packaging before buying processed meat. In general, it is required by law to properly label food products, including meat, with information about how it was processed and whether or not preservatives were added.

The only thing that really poses a threat to minimally processed meats is if they have been stored improperly and for longer than the acceptable amount of time. 

Things To Know About Minimally Processed Vs Processed

Additives and preservatives are used in processed meat to extend its shelf life and reduce food waste. However, most preservatives added to processed meat can damage your health, as much processed meat contains high amounts of sodium (salt) and chemicals.

Even though salt does not pose a health risk and is essential in transmitting nerve impulses to muscles in your body. About 500 milligrams (mg) of salt per day is required for these fundamental processes in the body.

However, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke risk are all linked to overeating salt. As a result, ensuring that one’s salt consumption remains in a state of equilibrium is absolutely necessary.

Minimally processed meats should not contain added preservatives and may be the best option to reduce chemical intake. Meats with additional preservatives are best avoided by purchasing more significant cuts and dividing them for cooking at home.

While it’s true that processed meats, in general, have greater salt levels, it’s also true that eating them in moderation can be OK.

Minimally Processed Meat Supports Local Farmers And Businesses

Eating minimally processed meat is healthy and can help local farmers, as small-scale farms often produce minimally processed meats. Eating minimally processed meat could promote a more sustainable local economy.   

What Does Minimally Processed Mean On Ground Beef?

Meat that has been minimally processed has remained relatively the same from its natural state after being ground for consumption. Beef that has undergone minimal processing include, but is not limited to, those that have been quickly frozen or refrigerated after being slaughtered or ground from whole cuts of meat. 

Compared to beef products that have been overly processed, minimally processed ground beef is preferable. Because it has simply transformed from a whole to a ground state with no added chemicals or fillers.

What Processed Meats To Avoid?

Many processed types of meat are high in salt, preservatives, and other additives, so eating them in moderation or avoiding them altogether is generally advised. Smoked processed meat may be delicious, but it is some of the worst processed meat you can eat. 

Listed below are some processed meats that should be avoided or eaten in moderation.

Bacon, ham, salami, beef jerky, sausages, hotdogs, and other types of lunch meats are examples of processed meats that include salt and other preservatives. Try to use as few of these when cooking at home as possible. Also, avoid making these products a regular part of your diet and instead enjoy them on special occasions.

What Is The Least Processed Meat?

Fresh fish like salmon in sushi might be the best example of the least processed meat. The least processed meats are whole cuts of meat that have yet to be butchered and cut into portions.

Except for fat that may have been trimmed and other unpleasant bits removed, there is no difference between a fresh cut of recently butchered meat and larger chunks of meat that have not been portioned.

Meat cuts like steaks, roasts, and chops that have not been cured, smoked, or otherwise preserved in any other way, and whole or portioned fish and poultry like turkey, chicken, and duck also fit into this category. 

Other minimally processed meats include ground meat that has not been formed into patties or manipulated in any other way. In addition, ground meat that has not been combined with other ingredients is minimally processed meat. 

What Does Minimally Processed Mean On Chicken?

The term “minimally processed chicken” refers to chicken that has not undergone much additional processing after being slaughtered and having its unwanted bits removed. This includes unprocessed chicken products such as fresh chicken breasts, thighs, and wings. 

Minimally processed chicken includes unbreaded, unseasoned, unformed chicken that has undergone the bare minimum of processing. However, it may have been frozen or refrigerated to increase its shelf life. 


Meat that has been minimally processed retains its original composition and flavor as much as possible. No chemicals or preservatives were used in the preparation. It may have been cut, trimmed, frozen, vacuum sealed, or ground. Compared to severely processed meat, which often contains additives and preservatives, minimally processed meat is healthier. 

More FAQs

What is an example of a minimally processed food?

An example of a minimally processed food is fresh blueberries, cut vegetables, and roasted nuts. These foods are prepared for convenience, while still maintaining their nutritional quality and freshness. Additionally, canned tomatoes or tuna, as well as frozen fruit or vegetables, are examples of foods that are processed at their peak to preserve their nutritional value and freshness.

Is canned tuna a processed food?

Canned tuna is considered a minimally processed food, as it typically consists of tuna, water or oil, salt, and sometimes additional seasonings or broth for enhanced taste. It is an affordable and low-calorie protein source that provides essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids.

Is Ham considered a processed meat?

Ham is considered a processed meat due to its smoking, salting, curing, or fermentation process. Other examples of processed meats include devon, bacon, salami, frankfurts, prosciutto, cabanossi, and kransky. It is advisable to limit or avoid the consumption of processed meats as they have been associated with an elevated risk of bowel and stomach cancer.

What are the most processed foods to avoid?

The most processed foods to avoid include sugary beverages like sweetened coffee and tea, energy drinks, and soft drinks, as well as deli meats, hot dogs, and sausages. Additionally, it is advisable to steer clear of frozen pizza and frozen meals, packaged snacks such as chips, cookies, crackers, and baked goods, most breakfast cereals, and canned or instant soups.

Is there any deli meat that is not processed?

The answer to the question “Is there any deli meat that is not processed?” is to buy meat sliced fresh from a cooked cut of beef or ham, or slices of turkey meat from the deli. This is the best way to avoid processed meats.

What is the least harmful deli meat?

The least harmful deli meat is the one with low-sodium options, as sodium is used for preservation. Opt for lean cuts of deli meat like turkey, chicken breast, lean ham, or roast beef, as they have the highest nutritional value compared to other types of deli meat.

What deli meat is the healthiest?

The healthiest deli meat would be those derived from poultry, such as turkey and chicken breast, as they are preservative free and have lower saturated fat content and calories per serving compared to beef or pork.

How do you avoid processed deli meat?

To avoid processed deli meat, one can follow these tips: carefully examine the ingredient list for terms such as nitrate, nitrite, cured, or salted. If any of these words are present, it indicates that the meat is processed and should be avoided. It is important to be an informed consumer, as even products labeled as “uncured” may still contain nitrates and nitrites.

What are good unprocessed meats?

Good unprocessed meats include fish, shellfish, chicken, turkey, beef, veal, and lamb, which can all be healthy additions to a high meat diet.

What breakfast meat is not processed?

The breakfast meat that is not processed is lean cuts of beef, chicken, pork, veal, and lamb, as they have lower fat content and are rich in protein. It is possible to have a lean cut of steak for breakfast, and don’t overlook the option of fish!

What can I replace processed meat with?

You can replace processed meat with options such as BBQ chicken without the skin, canned tuna or salmon, boiled eggs, hummus, cheese, leftover home-cooked meat like slices of roast, and home-cooked rissoles.

Is deli turkey considered processed meat?

Deli turkey is considered processed meat due to the addition of nitrates, which can be harmful. Although turkey and chicken are often suggested as healthier options compared to red meat, when preserved and found in deli meat packets or at the deli counter, they fall under the category of processed meats. This also applies to roasted chicken and roasted turkey, as well as turkey bacon, as they typically contain added nitrates.

Is boar’s head processed deli meat?

Boar’s Head Simplicity products are not processed deli meat; they are high-quality, flavorful delicatessen meats and cheeses that are minimally processed, containing no artificial ingredients, preservatives, or antibiotics ever.

Is ground turkey processed?

Ground turkey is a processed product made by combining dark and light turkey meat, along with the remaining skin and visible fat, which are taken off the bone and processed together until they form a ground consistency. Additives are also used during the processing of the turkey meat, skin, and fat.

What is considered minimally processed?

Minimally processed foods are generally defined as fresh vegetables, fruits, pasteurized milk, chicken, fish, beans, and eggs, which undergo little to no processing before being purchased or harvested.

What are naturally minimally processed foods?

Naturally minimally processed foods are unprocessed or minimally processed foods such as vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, meats, seafood, herbs, spices, garlic, eggs, and milk. These real, whole foods should be the foundation of your diet.

Is bacon considered a Processed meat?

Bacon is indeed considered a processed meat as it undergoes preservation methods such as smoking, salting, and curing, often involving the addition of chemical preservatives. Processed meats encompass various types including deli meats, bacon, and hot dogs. Consumption of processed meats has been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Regrettably, the preservation process of these meats can lead to the formation of cancer-causing substances.

Is chicken considered processed meat?

Chicken is considered processed meat if it has been preserved or had nitrates added to it. While turkey and chicken are often suggested as healthier options compared to red meat, if they have been roasted and packaged as deli meat or turkey bacon, they fall into the category of processed meats and can be harmful.

What is minimally processed food USDA?

The USDA defines minimally processed food as including canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, raw ground beef, cut-up chicken and whole-body turkey, roasted pieces, and sliced cheese. Additionally, value-added products such as turkey taco meat, roasted chicken pieces, and frozen fruit cups are also considered minimally processed.

What can I eat instead of processed foods?

Instead of processed foods, you can opt for alternatives such as fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables and fruits, as well as dried, canned, and frozen beans and legumes like lentils and chickpeas. Additionally, whole grains like oats, brown rice, barley, and quinoa can be included in your diet. Fresh and frozen poultry and meat are also suitable options.

Is bacon ultra-processed?

Bacon is not considered ‘ultra-processed’ despite containing preservatives like salt and nitrates. However, it is important to note that bacon is not a healthier option compared to salami, which is classified as ‘ultra-processed’ due to its higher number of added ingredients and additional factory processing.

What are processed meats to avoid?

Processed meats to avoid include bacon, sausages, hot dogs, canned meat, and lunch meat. These types of meat have undergone processing to enhance their preservation and flavor. Experts warn against consuming excessive amounts of processed meats as they can have detrimental effects on health. Numerous studies have established connections between processed meat consumption and the development of different types of cancer, as well as heart disease and diabetes.

Is canned tuna processed?

Canned tuna is considered a processed food. It undergoes alterations such as the addition of oil, sugar, or salt before being packaged. However, these modifications do not have a negative impact on health. Other examples of processed foods include simple bread, cheese, tofu, and canned beans.

Are Mcdonald’s burgers processed meat?

McDonald’s burgers are not processed meat. They are made from 100% pure beef, seasoned with a touch of salt and pepper, and contain no fillers, additives, or preservatives.

Is ground chicken considered processed meat?

Ground chicken is not considered processed meat, even though it involves a form of processing. The association between processed meat and colorectal cancer does not apply to fresh meat that has been ground for use in dishes like burgers or casseroles.

Is Taco Bell ground beef processed?

Taco Bell ground beef is not processed; instead, it is made from 100 percent USDA premium beef. Similar to how you would prepare taco meat at home, we simmer the beef, drain excess fat, and then season it with our unique blend of 7 authentic seasonings and spices.

Which ground beef is the healthiest?

The healthiest option among the types of ground beef is 90/10: Ground sirloin. It may not be suitable for burgers due to its low fat content, but it is perfect for sauces, soups, stews, and is often preferred in chili recipes.

Are Wendy’s burgers processed meat?

Wendy’s burgers are not processed meat. They are made from 100% real beef, never frozen, and without any fillers or additives. The square beef patties ensure that you are getting the best hamburger for your money. Wendy’s prioritizes the quality of the beef, which is essential in creating the best hamburger in the game.

Is it OK to eat lean ground beef everyday?

It is not recommended to eat lean ground beef every day, as official guidelines suggest a “relatively lower consumption” of red and processed meats. While there is no specific limit for red meat, the general recommendation for animal protein sources (meats, poultry, and eggs) in a 2,000-calorie diet is 26 ounces per week.

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