Ai yi yi. So in 1939, Nathan Cummings acquired the CD Kenny company, which begat the Sprague Warner Kenny Company, which became Consolidated Grocers, which became Consolidated Foods Corporation, which acquired The Kitchens of Sara Lee, which became Consolidated’s largest brand so they changed their name to Sara Lee, and they acquired Hillshire Farms, which became their largest brand, so they changed their name to Hillshire Brands.
The company had acquired many other companies in different segments of consumer products, and subsequently spun those off to a variety of buyers. Companies closer to their core lines they had acquired over the years included Bryan Foods of Mississippi, Aidell’s Sausage, Kahn’s, Galileo, Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, and more.
The surviving company was split into two companies, one bearing the Hillshire name, one retaining the Sara Lee name, and I’m not sure why, as there was a lot of duplication of product production and distribution. (Both companies made many of the same products with different names).
In June of 2014, Hillshire Brands became a wholly owned subsidiary of Arkansas poultry giant, Tyson, who paid $8.4 billion for the privilege of not being a chicken little business anymore and preferring to feast on the profits of pork. (I’m making a joke here, Tyson is a $35 billion revenue company with over 100,000 employees.
I have often wondered why Tyson didn’t make a play for Smithfield instead of allowing it to go to Chinese investors?
All that to say Hillshire Farms makes 38 different kinds of lunch meat, which is what I set out to write about today.
Not much I like about what I refer to as “pressed chopped and formed” lunch meat, those slivery slices of “meat like” product, that come in a wide variety of “flavors,” like ham, roast beef, chicken, turkey and so on. To my personal taste, the only thing that distinguishes one from the other is color. They all seem to taste the same (again, to me).
Spoiler alert: nope.
I primarily fell for the ad because it pictured a “pastrami” which I hadn’t seen or tried, and it turned out my store doesn’t carry that one, so I came home with a couple of hams and a roast beef.
You’ll find your choice of ‘deli meats’ pre-packaged, with both the Hillshire and Sara Lee names on them. Sara Lee is the brand you will see on the sliced to order meats at deli counters.
The ham and beef slices are pictured below. If you enjoy this kind of product at 3 / $10, it works out to about half the per pound price as pretty much the same product that is sold in the deli counter.
But to me, they have a ‘gelatinous’ feel to the texture when chewing, and I really think the flavors are indistinguishable. I don’t see any reason to not buy the kind of these meats you often see at 2 / $1 as pictured left.
Sara Lee and Hillshire lunch meats are made at one of two Hillshire plants, pictured below, Kansas City, or just outside of Cincinnati. For some reason they share a USDA plant number, and I’m not sure what that means.
Hard to say how I feel about all of Tyson’s products as a whole. While I don’t like any of their chicken stuff (“maybe be injected with a XX % solution” is a killer for me, no thanks), I like Galileo’s salamis, Hillshire’s, Smoked Sausages, Beef Hot Links, Polska Kielbasa, and I’d prefer to never eat any little smokies other than their beef ones, which I just love. (and I have tried most every brand on numerous occasions).
If you want the best quality lunch meat, buy a ham, beef roast, or turkey, roast, and slice yourself. Invest in a meat slicer if you like it paper thin. You can freeze the slices in serving size baggies and you’ll be much happier. (And save money).
hillshire farms deli meat review