Sausage Brands Made With The Highest & Lowest Quality Ingredients

We can all probably agree that there's nothing like a good spicy sausage to start the day off right. But is it good for you? Now, don't get us wrong — we know that sausage isn't exactly considered the ultimate health food. But after much research, we've discovered a few brands that feature ingredients we'd rather not have as part of our daily meal rotation, along with other sausage brands that don't seem to include those same icky ingredients at all.

So, what gives? As it turns out, there is a lot of variability when it comes to sausage brands and the types of ingredients companies use to satisfy your appetite. But don't worry. We've done some digging, and are ready to break down the brands we've found with the most questionable ingredients in them, along with other brands that feature nothing but stellar ones. Sounds interesting? Stick with us for more sizzling details!

Low: Jimmy Dean

Any true sausage-loving fan surely knows about Jimmy Dean sausages. Their rich, savory flavor pairs perfectly with a hot stack of flapjacks and warm maple syrup. Sadly, these sausages also contain monosodium glutamate (also known as MSG), which is no doubt used to help amplify that incredible umami flavor in those Jimmy Dean sausages we all know and love.

And while we'll admit that MSG is listed last on the Jimmy Dean Premium Pork Regular Sausage Roll ingredients list, just the fact that it shows up is enough for us to cast this sausage brand down as one of the lower-quality brands out there. Monosodium glutamate may not cause issues in all people, but for some, issues like headaches, fluttering heartbeat, and sweating are commonly reported among people with MSG sensitivities (via Mayo Clinic). Sorry, Jimmy Dean; though we love your sausages, the inclusion of monosodium glutamate has us a bit concerned.

Low: Swaggerty's

Moving onto the next brand, we've got Swaggerty's sausage — a brand you've likely seen in your local market cooler and, as such, may wonder how it compares to its other sausage brand contenders. Honestly? It doesn't fare well at all. While Jimmy Dean featured one ingredient that gave us potential pause, Swaggerty's offers many more. Sadly, Swaggerty's sausages contain a hodgepodge of ingredients that caused us to wonder just how often we'd want to add these to our early morning breakfast plate.

Swaggerty's Farm Mild Breakfast Sausage Patties, for example, contain an unhealthy blend of ingredients like MSG, BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole), and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene). As if those aren't enough acronyms for you, you can also expect this sausage to contain a hearty dose of propyl gallate. So, what's the issue with these ingredients? Simply put, each has its own potential for health ramifications, especially when consumed in excess. BHA and propyl gallate have proved potentially carcinogenic, and BHT is an endocrine disruptor. As a result, we can't recommend this sausage as being made from high-quality ingredients. In fact, we'd say it's anything but.

Low: Eckrich

Now, onto Eckrich, who often produces rich-tasting and deliciously hearty smoked sausages, best enjoyed smashed between two slices of white bread and a heaping dose of mustard ... ahem. All jokes aside, though we love eating Eckrich smoked sausages in a variety of ways, it's clear that Eckrich won't be contenders for any top ingredient accolades anytime soon. The ingredients listed on many of its sausages (including the Eckrich Natural Casing Smoked Sausage Rope) proves less than stellar with offenders like sodium nitrate, sodium phosphate, and, of course, monosodium glutamate topping our naughty list.

We've already gone into a few details about the potential risks concerning individuals sensitive to MSG, but what about nitrates and sodium phosphate? Unfortunately, nitrites when consumed in food that is rich in protein, and cooked over high heat may actually prove carcinogenic (via Healthline). As for sodium phosphate? According to Healthline, it may cause unwanted effects in individuals suffering from heart failure, kidney disease, colitis, or who have a general allergy to the additive. Considering these potential health complications, Eckrich certainly remains on the low-end of sausages with high-quality ingredients.

Low: Hillshire Farm

If you love smoked sausage as much as we do, you likely already know that Hillshire Farm brand is a household sausage staple. Though it may be a quick and hearty option for protein, it may not be the best grab for every morning wake-up. There are several ingredients in this product that concern us, from the general use of food additives to other more contentious additions, like monosodium glutamate, sodium nitrite, and sodium phosphate.

First and foremost, we notice that this sausage contains a lot of ingredients other than pure meat with the typical seasonings. Instead, we see dextrose, obscure "flavorings", autolyzed yeast, modified food starch, and more. And while these ingredients may not be bad for you per se, they are certainly additions we don't see in higher-quality sausage picks, making us wonder whether these additives are really needed in the first place.

But what really concerns us is the use of ingredients like sodium phosphate, along with nitrites similar to what's found in Eckrich Smoked Sausage. Sodium phosphate can cause adverse reactions in individuals, especially those with specific conditions, and, as explained before, nitrates and nitrites can both increase the chances of cancer when consumed on a regular basis. As a result, we can't fully recommend eating those deliciously savory ropes of Hillshire Farm Hot Smoked Sausage, though we must admit it has certainly found a way to make all of those additives tasty!

Low: Johnsonville

Who doesn't love a good Johnsonville sausage? Though there are many popular sausage brands out there, we'd venture to guess that Johnsonville sausages are one of the most versatile given the many options the brand offers to sausage lovers everywhere. But despite the company's diverse offerings, Johnsonville isn't winning any points with us in the ingredient department. Though Johnsonville made many claims about having nixed artificial colors along with nitrates and nitrites, we were still able to find a few remaining ingredients in the sausages that caused us to hesitate when it came to giving them our "high-quality" stamp of approval.

So, what might those ingredients be? Taking Johnsonville's Brown Sugar and Honey Breakfast Sausage Links as an example, you'll see that the ingredients list is indeed much shorter than some of the other brands we've covered, but still contains additives like BHA and propyl gallate. These ingredients make these sausages potentially unsuitable for everyday consumption. With this in mind, it's important that you watch your Johnsonville sausage intake, despite the removal of nitrites, nitrates, and artificial colors.

Low: Odom's Tennessee Pride

This is yet another popular sausage brand whose ingredients list tends to be refreshingly shorter than most. In fact, we don't find many offending ingredients in this one, and almost all the components listed on Odom Tennessee Pride Mild Sausage Roll packaging include names of ingredients we've actually heard of. Fresh pork, water, salt, spices, and sugar are all totally normal and expected flavorings one might find in typical food.

Having said that, we can't help but point out the fact that Odom's Tennessee Pride Mild Sausage Roll still contains MSG. And while this might not ruffle everyone's feathers, the truth of the matter is that some people are extremely sensitive to monosodium glutamate, especially when consumed frequently. Since this additive can cause headaches, chest pain, sweating,  and other symptoms (via Medical News Today), we must classify this sausage as falling short of the finest ingredients we've come across. But don't worry. There are still plenty of options for those of you looking to skip MSG in sausage coming up, so be sure to sit tight!

Low: Bob Evans

Bob Evans is a banger of a sausage brand, especially if you've had the pleasure of dining in-person in the actual restaurant. As fans of Bob Evans already know, the sausage there is amazing, with the perfect amount of seasonings and spice that just makes it scream comfort. However, though we love the taste of the Bob Evans sausage, we couldn't help but notice the MSG and potassium lactate in the mix, which has us wondering just how high-quality this sausage roll actually is.

Now, we'll admit there isn't terribly strong evidence that either of these two ingredients will have horrible and long-lasting effects on your overall health. Having said that, both ingredients may cause problems in individuals with sensitivities, and thus, some may need to avoid these additives. Potassium lactate, in particular, can cause allergic reactions and digestive issues (via Nao Medical). It is for this reason that pesky ingredients like these bother us so much, and we really do wish larger brands would avoid using them. But for now, Bob Evans sausages still contain those ever-annoying MSG and potassium lactate ingredients ... bummer.

Low: Purnell's Old Folks

Purnell's Old Folks Sausage is another oldie but goodie, and a familiar brand to most sausage devotees out there. Much like the previously mentioned Odom's Tennessee Pride Sausage Roll, you won't find an outstanding list of crazy ingredients here. Actually, the ingredients list is quite modest, and we must admit that this is a welcome sight. Nevertheless, we still take issue with the brands offering sausage with monosodium glutamate as an ingredient. We know that it imparts a deliciously savory umami flavor that our taste buds automatically associate with an amazing breakfast, but honestly, we get quite tired of seeing this particular ingredient in almost all sausage products.

Nevertheless, if you can get away with consuming monosodium glutamate without any ill effects, you may consider this brand well worth the buy. As for us, it won't win any honorable mention for the best and highest quality ingredients around, but we're at least willing to admit that this sausage is pretty darned good.

Low: Bar S

At first blush, a quick glance over a Bar S smoked sausage package had us pretty excited. The company made some pretty bold claims, with the Classic High Protein Smoked Sausage package indicating it nixed ingredients found in many of the company's competitors ... including MSG!

Though we are quite impressed with Bar S' efforts to negate annoying ingredients like monosodium glutamate, artificial colors, and artificial flavors, we do think the brand has quite a way to go before it can actually be considered a high-quality source of sausage. After all, the brand still includes sodium phosphates and nitrate as part of the sausage ingredients, both of which can trigger concerning impacts on health despite being found in many sausage brands today. So, while we will admit that the absence of MSG is incredibly satisfying to see, we still think Bar S could "up the bar" a bit in terms of quality ingredients.

Low: Klement's

If you've been lucky enough to spot Klement's sausages in your local grocer, you may be tempted to think they're super high-quality. After all, the brand advertises its sausages as being sourced right from Wisconsin (commonly known for delicious tasting cheese and sausage), with a clean-cut neat and attractive packaging that might lead you to believe this brand is a little different from the others. At least ... that's what we thought!

Upon closer inspection, however, we noticed that Klement's sausages aren't much different from other sausage types out there. When comparing its Italian sausage to its competitors, we see little to no difference. There's still plenty of propyl gallate to go around, along with BHA to make matters worse. As we said, these ingredients don't make the Klement brand any worse than other brands you might pick, but it isn't any better, either. So, don't let the crisp packaging and Wisconsin-based sourcing fool you this sausage doesn't really appear to be anything different than you'd get when you'd purchase the same thing from another brand.

High: Aidells

Now, we're onto some of the best sausages of the bunch, and boy, are we glad about it. After reviewing so many of the previous popular brands, we started to feel as though there were no other ways to achieve a good sausage without the addition of at least one type of additive to the mix. But brands like Aidells proved otherwise!

For example, Aidells Cajun Style Andouille Smoked Pork Sausage gives us a yummy option for a smoked sausage snack without any nitrates, monosodium glutamate, or sodium phosphate in sight. We also aren't seeing common additives like corn syrup, modified food starch, and more filling its list, boosting our trust in this brand, and giving us more hope for the sausage industry. Instead, our eyes happily grazed over ingredients like sea salt, garlic, spices (with a detailed list of what those spices actually are), sugar, paprika, and a few other ingredients. And the best part is that this sausage still manages to taste great. Sweet!

High: Gilbert's

If you can find Gilbert's brand sausage at your local grocer, you might want to do yourself a favor and pick up a pack. Not only does this sausage brand contain ingredients that are very familiar to our eyes, but there are some ingredients that simply make our mouths water, as well!

Consider Gilbert's All Natural Bourbon Apple Chicken Sausage. We spotted this one at our local retailer and were intrigued by the name of it alone. Once we glanced over the ingredients, we were even more impressed! Not only is the ingredients list void of MSG, sodium phosphate, nitrites, nitrates, and other unwelcome additives, but it includes elements like Bourbon whiskey, dried apples, brown sugar, parsley, and paprika. How could this one not be good? We guess it goes to show that a delicious sausage doesn't have to be chock-full of additives and flavor enhancers to taste good. And though this is indeed a chicken sausage, you can't deny this one seems to be a pick that's much better for your body than the others. Enjoy!

High: Organic Prairie

What's better than sampling a "clean" sausage for breakfast? An organic sausage, that's what. In case you thought there was no hope of finding a traditional "roll" sausage without MSG present, you can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing there isn't only a sausage out there you can eat for breakfast without it, but also, the ingredients included are totally organic. From organic pork to organic spices, you can count on Organic Prairie to offer up a delicious blend of pork breakfast sausages without any fillers, artificial ingredients, nitrates, nitrites, or MSG present.

On top of all this, you'll be happy to know that despite the absence of so many of these common additives found in traditional sausage, this organic sausage still packs plenty of flavor. The Organic Prairie Pork Breakfast Sausage gets mostly nothing but thumbs up as far as reviews are concerned, and while the pricing may be a bit steep compared to other brands, we think the high-quality ingredients used are well worth the hiked-up price.

High: Family Ranch

If you thought you only had one choice for a yummy high-quality breakfast sausage, think again. Another great brand to score organic breakfast sausage that's free of the usual sausage additive offenders is Family Ranch. The company offers a delightfully flavorful breakfast sausage crafted from organic ingredients, enhanced by a touch of molasses. It's hard to envision anything other than an incredible taste from this combination. Like Organic Prairie, The Family Ranch Organic Breakfast Sausage features organic pork seasoned with organic sugar and spices, a bit of dehydrated parsley, and that oh-so-good organic molasses we told you about. The results are a totally delicious breakfast link sausage you can enjoy any morning. What's even better is that this sausage is found at various Whole Foods locations across the U.S. The next time you find yourself perusing Whole Foods' aisles, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this uniquely high-quality winner of a sausage brand. Delish!

High: Applegate

We bet you thought you'd have to make it out to Whole Foods or another specialty mart to get your hands on a high-quality sausage. Actually, a good-for-you sausage may be a bit more accessible than you think. Thanks to Applegate, you can score deliciously high-quality sausage without additives right at your common local grocer.

Applegate is a very common brand known for offering your typical cured meat and sausage fare, but with better and higher quality ingredients. We've often spotted Applegate sausage products at places like Walmart and even Target, making this good-for-you sausage brand that much more available to those who prefer to be a bit more conscious about which additives are included in their morning feast.

A great example of what Applegate has to offer is the Applegate Natural Chicken & Maple Frozen Breakfast Sausage. This pick features only chicken, water, sugar, maple syrup, and a few other natural ingredients like salt and spices. You won't have to worry about MSG or nitrites popping up here; instead, you'll experience the pure essence of breakfast sausage flavor, free from any concerns about its ingredients. Dig in!