I've read that consuming processed meats increases your risk for cancer. I bought some sausage from Whole Foods and I'm hoping someone can tell me what about it is problematic. Right now I'm looking at Atkins Ranch lamb sausage. The ingredients are: New Zealand Lamb, Sea Salt, Red Bell Pepper, Tomato, Carrot, Onion, Garlic, Green Onion, Natural Flavors (Orange, Lemon, Lime, Shallots & Yeast), Evaporated Cane Juice, Celery, Ascorbic Acid, Spices (Basil), Tartaric Acid, Citric Acid, Annatto & Canola Oil, lamb casing. Granted, it has sodium (470mg/link) and added sugar (though 0g/link of sugars)
First of all the evidence that processed meats are "associated" with increased cancer risk is epidemiological, and therefore not "hard" evidence. What are processed meats? Hot dogs, bologna, salami, sausage, bacon, pepperoni and Slim Jims. The average store brands have a lot of chemicals, including MSG. People who eat a lot of Slim Jims, probably drink a lot of beer and have other nasty habits. (I know, I was one of them...)
These sausages sound amazing to me. But it is probably prudent not to make any processed meats the base of your food pyramid, even if they are high quality. That said, I probably eat bacon or sausage 2-3 times per week...
You have to read the label and judge the ingredients. Carl has identified a potential issue; the "natural flavors". Sure the could just be "(Orange, Lemon, Lime, Shallots & Yeast)", but who knows for sure.
Personally, I'd also be unhappy about the canola oil, but it's likely in a tiny amount and not worth getting too up in arms over, or at least more so than the natural flavors.
I try to stay away from anything processed, including meats. I do so primarily because of the high sodium content and also because I like to have control over what goes into my body. I bought a dehydrator and make my own fruit and veggie chips, as well as my own jerky. I highly recomment paleo/primal folks invest in a dehydrator. My kids love packing up mini trail mix baggies from the dehydrated fruit, nuts and jerky.
With regards to "natural flavoring", I recently found Bruce Bradley's blog and am recommending it to everyone I know. Mr. Bradley worked for over fifteen years as a food marketer at companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco. And he's sharing some pretty nasty insider secrets. So, what exactly do companies mean when they talk about "natural flavoring"? This blog post is quite eye opening.
There are 2 main issues here to consider that haven't as yet been mentioned:
(1) Is the lamb grass/ silage fed? grain fed? organic or not? How likely is it that it was jacked full of growth hormone to get it more quickly and profitably to the deli counter? All these questions massively effect the presence of toxins in the meat, and the fat profile.
(2) What exactly is "New Zealand Lamb"? Typically, sausages contain all the stuff that you couldn't sell as a seperate "cut" - I'm talking eyeballs, testicles, ears and brains (in the west, at least) - all of these arent necessarily bad things, as most offal is at least as nutritious as muscle meat. But what about when you get to things like hooves? and ground up bonemeal? Are these all part of a New Zealand Lamb? I would say yes. And the nutritional profile of these are drastically different from the meat.
Conclusion: Much worse? I couldn't say for sure, but something tells me a skin-tube filled mostly with ground up bones, hooves, and less-choice cuts; from grain-fed hormone-injected sheep is not the ideal choice of "paleo meats" :)
"Whole Foods" does give the impression of lambs galavanting in green pastures, but until I see a certification, I tend to assume the worst.