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It is an age-old culinary mystery: what ingredients go into a sausage?

Meat, obviously. Fat, a given. But sulphur dioxide, sugar and yeast?

Consumer group Choice has investigated six types of regular beef sausages from three supermarkets and three independent butchers, and found consumers aren't always getting what they pay for.

Camel with that? The rules surrounding sausages are not always clear to consumers.
Camel with that? The rules surrounding sausages are not always clear to consumers.

Sausages labelled "certified organic", that cost $21.99 a kilo, had the second highest level of sulphur dioxide, a chemical used as a preservative, which is not a permitted additive in organic meat products.

"Gourmet" sausages, which cost $11.95 a kilo from an independent butcher, were discovered to have the least amount of meat, only containing 56.9 per cent of "lean meat".

Coles supermarket had the saltiest beef sausages in the country, while Woolworths sausages only contained 58.7 per cent "lean meat".

Under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand guidelines, sausages need to have at least 50 per cent of fat-free meat flesh.

Fat-free flesh is described by the FSANZ as being the skeletal muscle of any slaughtered animal, which can include animal rind, fat and connective nerve, blood, blood vessels and in the case of poultry, the skin.

The Choice study found the six sausages all contained beef as advertised.

However, sausage packets that just list "meat" in their ingredients can contain the whole or parts of buffalo, camel, cattle, deer, goat, hare, pig, poultry, rabbit or sheep, Choice spokesman Tom Godfrey said.

"Where you purchase sausages can make a big difference to the amount of fat, sodium and sulphur dioxide you consume."

But paying a premium price does not always guarantee a premium product.

"There seems to be wide-spread community confusion about organic and certified organic products including sausages," Mr Godfrey said.

The more exotic sounding the sausage, the more exotic the ingredients.

In Woolworth's "Tibaldi Wagyu Beef Sausages" there was "natural roast beef flavour" and "smoke flavour" added.

IGA's "Continental Sausages" contained "spray dried wine" and "red beet" flavouring.

Co-owner of Hudson's Meats, Jeff Winfield, said they aimed to have 85 per cent meat and 15 per cent fat in their sausages.

"Organic is an overused term," Mr Winfield said.

If a sausage is labelled as "certified organic" it should not contain pesticides, chemicals or hormones, he said.

Have you ever been misled by meat products? Email swhyte@fairfaxmedia.com.au