3 Things to Look for If You’re Searching for Better Deli Meat

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Real talk: You'd love to roast a whole chicken every Sunday for a major meal prep win, but between your a.m. yoga class and catching up on your ever-expanding Netflix queue, there just isn't always time for that.

The ultimate time-saving hack would be turning to deli meat as your go-to protein source (no cooking FTW), but figuring out which kinds are actually worry-free is where things get a little trickier.

For an assist on sorting through the many options in the deli aisle, and to help you make the most informed decision about the meats you're buying, we asked Michelle L. Thomas, Ph.D., animal scientist and animal welfare manager with Applegate®, for some pointers.

Her number one tip? Purchasing your lunchtime essentials from a company with rigorous standards.

Her number one tip? Purchasing your lunchtime essentials from a company with rigorous standards—like Applegate®. Since 1987, the natural-and-organic meat purveyor has been making strides to improve the meat industry. Three decades later, Applegate is still making progress.

“For us, changing the meat we eat means making clean, crave-able food sourced from animals that are raised humanely, with no antibiotics,” says Dr. Thomas. Farmer's market quality, with grocery store convenience. Now that's a time-saver.

Keep reading for 3 simple ways to choose the best lunchtime options in the deli-meat aisle.

Applegate ham

1. Look for deli meat made with no antibiotics, ever.

The easiest way to make a workday fly by? Packing a lunch (like an artisanal sandwich on crusty bread or a DIY charcuterie box) you'll look forward to eating all morning. And while opting for deli meat is a totally genius meal-prep shortcut for you, you don't want to use one that was made by taking shortcuts—like raising animals with antibiotics, or adding weird fillers and artificial preservatives.

"As a baseline, I would recommend shoppers look for deli meats sourced from animals that were not given antibiotics and without artificial ingredients or preservatives," Dr. Thomas says.

Applegate deli meats are sourced from animals that have never received antibiotics, because farmers use holistic methods to keep their animals healthy. Instead of using antibiotics, they ensure the animals are eating an optimized diet and hitting nutrition goals, while providing living conditions that allow animals room to roam.

"Lower stress, good nutrition, and a safe, stimulating environment as a prevention model promotes health and wellbeing—for animals and people," Dr. Thomas says.

Applegate deli meats

2. Ensure it's from humanely raised animals

For Applegate, committing to raising animals in exceptional conditions is about even more than producing top-notch deli meat—it's about changing lives. "We believe the way food is raised can transform lives from the farmer who grows it to the person who eats it," Dr. Thomas said. "And that mission starts on the farm."

Applegate opts to work with farmers who "willingly produce fewer animals under very high standards," Dr. Thomas says. AKA, they feed them a 100 percent vegetarian or grass-fed diet, with access to plenty of fresh water, comfortable bedding, and space to play (with wellness-boosting toys, to boot).

Applegate deli meats

3. Shop for cold cuts made without GMOs

Though the jury might still be out on the long-term effects of GMOs, when shopping for deli meats, Dr. Thomas recommends sticking to the philosophy that leads you to the farmers' market every weekend: the more natural the better.

That same philosophy motivated Applegate to overhaul its entire line of natural and organic meats to remove all GMO ingredients in 2015. "We decided to do this out of an abundance of caution because there just hasn’t been enough study about the effects of GMOs in our food system," Dr. Thomas says.

As a bonus, Applegate relies on third-party verification to ensure all of its ingredients meet its strict criteria of quality and food safety. Because eating clean is serious biz.

In partnership with Applegate

Photos: Applegate

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