What exactly is in a Slim Jim or a Hot Pocket?

A book named, “This is What You Just Put in Your Mouth?,” and authored by, Patrick Di Justo, will tell you every ingredient in various types of food and drinks. Anything from coffee, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, and even golf balls are fully broken down. Here is a sample of some of the items from the book that are out now, including the one below, taken from his blog:

Slim Jim

Slim Jim

How would you describe your meat stick? Try, “alive.” 


It’s real meat, all right. But it ain’t Kobe. The US Department of Agriculture categorizes beef in eight grades of quality. The bottom three grades-Utility, Cutter, and Canner-are typically used in processed foods and come from older steers with partially ossified vertebrae, tougher tissue, and generally less reason to live. ConAgra, whose brands include Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Egg Beaters, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt’s, Marie Callender’s, Odom’s Tennessee Pride, Orville Redenbacher’s, PAM, Peter Pan, Reddi-wip, and Snack Pack, wasn’t exactly forthcoming on what’s inside Slim Jims.

Mechanically Separated Chicken

Did you imagine a conveyor belt carrying live chickens into a giant machine, set  to the classic cartoon theme “Powerhouse”? You’re right! Well, maybe not about the music. Poultry scraps are  pressed mechanically through a sieve that extrudes the meat as a bright pink paste and leaves the bones behind-most of the time. Occasionally, there is enough bone residue in just one serving of chicken nuggets to provide up to half the daily allowance of fluoride.

Paprika and Paprika Extractives

Paprika is simply a variety of red bell pepper ground into a fine powder. But what are “extractives”? Because it is listed apart from other spices and flavorings, perhaps the “extractive” is oleoresin of paprika, which gives a meaty red color to sausages

Corn and Wheat Proteins

Slim Jim is made by ConAgra, which calls itself the “largest private brand food company in America.” If there are two things ConAgra has  a lot of, it’s corn and wheat, along with oats, soybeans, beef, pork , and poultry. 

Hydrolyzed Soy

Hydrolysis, in this instance, is the act of using water to break a larger soy  protein molecule into its constituent amino acids, such as glutamic acid. One way  to do this is to take a quantity of soybeans (usually what remains after the beans have been shucked and oiled) and pressure-cook them in dilute hydrochloric acid. When the resulting soup is neutralized, the end product consists of eighteen different amino acids from soy. Typically, the process also results in glutamic acid salt-also known as monosodium glutamate, a familiar flavor enhancer. What? You didn’t see monosodium glutamate on the label? It doesn’t have to be listed separately if it comes with the hydrolyzed soy.

Lactic Acid Starter Culture

Although ConAgra refers to Slim  Jim  as a meat stick (yum), it has a lot in common with old-fashioned fermented sausages like  salami and pepperoni. They all use bacteria and sugar  to produce lactic acid, which lowers the pH of  the sausage to around s.o, firming up  the meat and hopefully killing all harmful bacteria. Even though lactic acid is generally regarded as a milk product, fear not, lactose intolerants: Slim  Jim’s particular starter culture is safely vegetable based. Not that vegans are going to come anywhere near a Slim  Jim.


Serves as food for the lactic acid starter culture. Slim  Jim: it’s alive! 


In ancient times, people began salting meat to prevent it from spoiling. What happens (though they hardly knew it at the time) is that salt  binds the water molecules in meat, leaving little H 0 available for microbial activity-thereby preventing spoilage. This water activity level is crucial: a non-refrigerated sausage like Slim  Jim  has to have  a water-activity reading of 0.85, about the same  as dry cheese. The flip side  is that one Slim  Jim gives  you more than one-sixth of  the sodium your body needs in a day. 

Sodium Nitrite

Cosmetically, this is added to sausage because it combines with myoglobin in animal muscle to keep it from turning gray. Antibiotically, it inhibits botulism. Toxicologically, six grams of the stuff — roughly the equivalent of fourteen hundred Slim Jims — can kill you. So go easy there, champ.


The goal of the book is to inform and educate the readers, but some may come off scared after reading and learning about what some products are made of. Apparently, there are some disturbing things about certain coffees from the book, but no one will show or tell me anything from that part. For more snippets, it looks like you’ll have to buy the full version.