What’s Really in Meat Pies?

Something totally different today.

High-Performance Gum

I have something of a fascination with the way manufacturers and marketers deceive and manipulate people into buying their products. ‘Never let the facts get in the way of a good story’ is their motto. I love walking around the supermarket and reading the misleading and creative crap that can be found on the labels of products. Yesterday, I saw some “Professional Strength” chewing gum. Wow, who knew that chewing some gum could be a profession? Good to know. I wonder what it pays? Why on earth would I opt for the boring old-fashioned amateur gum when I now have at my disposal the new-and-improved professional version? Good grief. 

Which brings me to meat pies.

I know; worst segue ever.

Let’s be honest, commercially-made meat pies are a little terrifying. Kind of like walking into a dark room in a creepy old house.

* If you don’t live in Australia, then you may not know that the humble meat pie is something of a national food here in the Land Down Under. They can be purchased pretty much anywhere and we curious creatures start inhaling them at about three years of age. In terms of nutritional value, I guess they would sit nicely along side the American hotdog.

Although to be honest, I think the hotdog scares me even more.

Some Research

Anyway, the other day something aroused my interest and, as a result, I thought I’d do a little research into our national food. Fortunately for me, Choice Magazine has already done the work for me. So, rather than re-invent the wheel, I thought I’d jump onto their research train, give them the credit (thankyou Team Choice) and share some extracts from their comprehensive report (The Truth About Meat Pies, May 18, 2010).

I’ll also share a few thoughts of my own. Of course.

The stuff in grey italics is from Choice, the rest is little-old Moi.

*Warning: If you’re a fan of the meat pie and you intend to remain that way, you might wanna look away now. I’m telling you, some of the following is not pretty. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a free, non-chemical way to decrease your appetite, this article might just do the job. You’re welcome.

Here we go…

Since our last review of meat pies in 2006 Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) have improved the definition of a meat pie. Previously, a meat pie had to contain 25% ‘meat’, which could include parts of the animal such as snouts, ears, tongue roots, tendons and blood vessels.

Bucket anyone?

Now, under the Food Standards Code, a meat pie must contain a minimum of 25% ‘meat flesh’.

So, let me get this straight. A meat pie only needs to contain 25% meat to be ‘legal’. Being as most of the pie is actually not meat, shouldn’t it be called a meat-ish pie? Or perhaps, a hint-o­f­-meat pie? Or maybe even a looks-like-meat-but-isn’t-really pie?    

Meat flesh includes the skeletal muscle of any slaughtered animal (any!!!) as well as any ‘attached’ animal rind, fat, connective tissue, nerve, blood and blood vessels.

I think I just spewed in my mouth. 

But it doesn’t have to be beef, (of course it doesn’t) muscle meat from buffalo, camel, cattle, deer, goat, hare, pig, poultry or sheep can be used to manufacture meat pies and doesn’t need to be specified on the label.

Are you f***ing with me?? Camel!!

While unpleasant, gristle, generally connective tissue and blood vessels attached to the meat, is allowed by the Food Standards Code.

Clearly, the people at Food Standards don’t eat pies.

Mrs Mac’s, Sargents Premium Chunky Beef Royale and Herbert Adams Pepper Steak Chunky pies barely make the minimum requirement, all containing just over 25% meat as required by the Food Standards Code. In our last test of meat pies in 2006, Big Ben Extra Tasty, Sargents Traditional and Black & Gold pies failed to meet the standard. We’re pleased to see these manufacturers have since lifted their game to meet the 25% requirement.


Herbert Adams King Island Gourmet Premium Beef Pies take the gong for most meat at 38.5%

So, they get an award for creating a meat pie that’s 61.5% not meat?

In nutrition, in marketing, in retail and in life, things are often not as they seem.

I’m of the opinion that when the majority of my meat pie is not meat, something’s wrong. And when the meat that does find it’s way into my mouth is possibly a combination of pig snout, ears, blood vessels, camel flesh, tongue roots, tendons and hare, then it’s time for me to go vegan.

Carrot anyone?

Feel free to share a pie, hotdog or junk food story, fact or experience of your own. Although, I’m not sure I should ask. :)

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Em July 10, 2011 at 9:41 am

One word: Ew.

Harps, that information is truly terrifying. Luckily for me, the thought of consuming a pie totally turns my stomach anyway … unless it’s one I’ve made myself. Then at least I know exactly which part of the camel is in it!! (kidding, of course).

( ) x


chebbieanne July 10, 2011 at 10:48 am

Thankyou for this eye opening little piece.About once a year I crave to eat a meat pie. Usually about this time of year – but not this year! As a child at school to be able to order a meat pie from the tuck shop was a special winter treat. It was a long time ago when I think meat made its way into a pie. This reminded of a chat with a beef farmer I met some years ago at a conference on business development sort of stuff. We chatted at length about various aspects of primary production. He then went on to tell me how cattle are fed these days to produce a better “quality” of meat. We feed them lollies he told me!! Not just lollies but biscuits and cake as well. Mars bars and Samarties are particularly good he confided! The farmer buys the left over rubbish from sweets manufacturers and add them to the cattle food. Yes they throw in some hormones to increase the size of their beasts but the sweeties were great. They are cheap, the animals like the “extra” sugar in their food and growth is great. A couple more farmers joined our discussion and as it turned out they were all doing this!! Puts a whole new meaning on the term “fat cattle”. Now when I eat meat I often think about the cake and lollies I get as the added extras. Because I lived in the UK in the 80′s I cannot be a blood donor or organ transplant donor anymore.The problem is at that stage the cattle in the quest to grow bigger cows cheaply were being fed on other cattle and that means anyone who ate that meat subsequently has the potential to develop mad cow disease! Now what were you saying about carrots???


Anonymous July 10, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Coming from the land of the deep fried Mars bar, I couldn’t possibly comment on the meat pies. Professional chewing gum sounds like the better option though.


Dragon July 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm

As promised I tucked into a mrs macs yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to find 19g of protein on the label. How can that be bad? Anyway I would have had a 2nd but it was getting close to tea time and on the off chance we were having hot dogs or a family meat pie I thought it might spoil my appetite…

I feel priveleged to have been one of the vfl park “pie boys” hocking a four n twenty or 50 to the masses each week I hope you are not suggesting the poor humble pie boy be replaced with vegan person (politically correct).

Stuff it I say. Bring in big Sam Keka to raise the profile of the pie.

Sauce anyone….


meatpie January 29, 2014 at 3:22 am

dude your an idiot wake up


Brian July 11, 2011 at 4:45 am

Hi Craig,

What does the balance of the pie consist of?

Most tradies exist on meat pies and other similar crap , and drink energy drinks full of caffeine and sugar to get through their day..


lisa harper July 11, 2011 at 5:04 am

cant believe i read that while, eating my lunch, thankfully chicken…that’l teach me not to read while i eat…… Boke !!!! Also being Scottish, Pie’s are part of our stable diet, lol…well no more i can assure you of that..OMG want to vomit now xx think i’ll go share this with my fellows and make them suffer too :)


Dana July 11, 2011 at 6:54 am

Great topic Craig! Of course, if you are looking for a reason to go vegan, there are even better reasons than avoiding the snouts and tendons in pies. Did you catch the four corners story on live exports? Seeing what happens at slaughter should put any normal person off meat for good. And anybody who thinks it’s a whole lot better in Australia needs a wake up call.
Have you seen sow stalls, chicken farms and what happens to the poor Bobby calves? I haven’t even started on the environmental impact and the health benefits of veganism.

I’ve been vegan for nearly a year and it is the best thing I ever did in my life. I eat without fear or guilt. Food now nourishes my body without tearing apart my soul. I enjoy a bigger variety of tastier foods than I ever did before. Once vegans get over the biggest hurdle, which is realizing they are living in an omniverous society where everybody thinks they are freaks because they don’t eat the flesh and excretions from animals, the rest is easy.

I can’t wait for your article on chicken nuggets.


Annie M July 11, 2011 at 8:42 am

Hi Craig,

I have just read your article after just having breakfast! Don’t feel so good now.

Thanks for that info. I’m not really a pie eater, having said that I probably have one a year! I don’t think I will be having anymore from now on. I always wondered what REALLLY went into pies and now I know. Bring on the carrots I say! I will get my pie eating husband to read this article but I don’t think it will alter his love of the humble meat pie.


Kirstie July 11, 2011 at 8:54 am

I had known about the content of highly manufactured pies and the thought of eating one of those does make puke. But I do have a weakness for my local bakery’s pies and it has got me pondering what my humble bakery does??? Any ideas?


Anonymous July 19, 2011 at 8:50 am

I work at my local bakery and i am a bakery and in all my time 14yrs as a baker i haven t seen any of that (stuff) go into a single pie.We get our meat stright from a local butcher and it is 100% steak


Pet July 11, 2011 at 9:06 am

Errrrr gross!! Glad I had porridge for brekky!!
Meat pies are up there with sausages & “chicken” nuggets…..
Apparently there is cockroaches in chocolate, but that just makes it tastier!! ;-p


Stephen (mbe) July 11, 2011 at 9:17 am

Hi Craig,

When I was 16 (many years ago!) I worked as a cleanup boy in a butcher shop after school and on weekends,

I made the sausages, I know why they are sometimes refered to as mystery bags, Another butcher at the time got in trouble for having to much meat in his sausages.

Another area of meat production to explore is the commercial poultry market and the antibiotics that they feed chickens
“just in case” they get sick whilst they are growing.
Tip; when you eat your next chook check the drumstick bone,
if it is bowed you have a biotic chook!


Jackie T July 11, 2011 at 9:45 am

So, so glad I’m a vegetarian.


Sally July 11, 2011 at 9:57 am

The last time I ate a meat pie was many, many years ago.
I actually had the privilage of having the added bonus of a cooked FLY.
NOPE don’t do pies any more :)
Thx Craig just confirmed my thoughts about pies.
Kindest Regards


Jen July 11, 2011 at 10:28 am

So what’s wrong with camel or hare? Both sources of lean meat with very low saturated fats. Is it because they are too “ethnic” or is it because we are more accepting of what we are used to?

Although I’d probably only have about 2 or three pies a year, and I think that labelling needs to be more compreshensive, I am of the opinion that if we want to eat the posh bits of the animal (steaks, sashimi cuts of the salmon and chicken breasts), then we have a responsibility to avoid wasting the unfashionable parts.

There is so much snobbery attached to the parts of animals that have historically been considered only for the poor. Trotters, chicken feet, blood, hearts and heads are in this category. But feature a tricked-up dish of beef cheeks in red wine on Masterchef and suddenly offcuts are fashionable. Ten years ago lamb shanks were dog food but now they cost $6 each at Coles.

If tongues go into pies then so be it. You can pay $30/kilo for jellied, pressed tongue at David Jones food hall. It’s all a matter of perspective. As long as its processed hygenically and those with Kosher, Halal or other dietary needs can rely on the labelling, I say enjoy your 25% meat pie in moderation.


Anonymous July 12, 2011 at 3:45 am

I agree with you Jen, if we’re going to kill the animal, why waste any of it? My family has traditionally been in the ranching industry but keep their cattle free range. It’s not an easy thing to do because it makes them less competitive in the market for exactly the reasons you mentioned. See, everyone WANTS naturally raised, non-hormone fed meat, but if you are going to accomplish that in a real humane way, you have to make use of the entire animal, not just a few cuts.


just a mum July 11, 2011 at 10:45 am

Hi Craig,
I recently bought myself a slow cooker and a pie maker!!!!
The other day i slowed cooked some gravy beef along with some onions, stock and a few veggies for about 8 hours. I then put the filling in my pie maker (along with the pastry). Best pie I have ever eaten in my life….and I know exactly what went into it.
Every household should buy themselves a pie maker!!!! It took just 8 minutes. The pie maker also came with a recipe book with over 101 pie ideas. You can even make muffins and custard tarts in the pie maker…..how exciting, I can’t wait to make some!!!


NJH July 11, 2011 at 12:35 pm

And, lets not forget about the all-time best ongoing marketing campaign; Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain. All one has to do is eat that stuff and become an Ironman; right???

Sugar, sugar and more sugar; with a little squirt of milk…


Edith July 11, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Well said @ just a mum – I was thinking the same thoughts as I was reading Craig’s article and the comments. As a vegetarian, I don’t eat meat pies. There are so many good pie options with protein why eat mystery packages and home cooking is the safe way to go. Takes planning and very little extra time to be heartily nourished!


Heather Mulligan July 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm

OMG is anyone brave enough to guess whats in a hot dog then??


Tina Johnston July 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Hey Craig,

Almost 33 years vegetarian here, but hubby is highly unlikely to ever stop eating animals. He recently spent a week in China where he was served a meal that he thought contained corned beef. After he’d eaten it, he was told it was donkey and immediately turned green. I asked him what’s the difference… if you’re going to eat cows, pigs and sheep, why not donkeys too? Incidentally, he loves his meat pies… !!!

Pass me another brussel sprout please!

{{HUG}} Tina


Jacqui July 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Tofu pie anyone?? Gotta love being vegetarian….

Just a Mum: Love the idea of the pie maker…might have to invest in one for DH as he likes his pies.


Sarah July 12, 2011 at 12:24 am

No big surprise there. What I find most interesting is the repulsion people feel at eating certain parts of a dead animal but not other parts, and that they have very specific ideas about which animals are ‘food’ and which are ‘pets’….and of course this varies greatly depending on what part of the world you happen to be in.
The species-ism that exists in our society never ceases to amaze me. Many people claim to love animals, and will keep and adore a pet, but don’t have a second thought about the suffering that is inflicted on other animals every day because of the unnecessary food choices that they make, usually without thinking about where their food comes from and what is in it.
Consuming dairy products is possibly the most bizarre and falsely advertised industry of all. People would not dream of breastfeeding from their own mother past infancy, or suckling from a cows udder, yet they will drink milk from another species that has been processed beyond all recognition and transported around the country first. Milk that is meant for calves, not humans. Adults do not need milk…that is what weaning is all about. The reason so many people are lactose intolerant is that this is NORMAL after infancy. Some people even believe that cows naturally produce all that milk for us every day. The dairy industry deserves the biggest false advertising award of all time!


Jackie July 12, 2011 at 8:32 am



Sus July 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Ah, but homemade meat pies are delicious – and actually contain meat :D


bada July 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm

I agree with Sarah, start accepting that the meat you’re eating is just another part of of just another dead animal. Why does it matter what animal or what part of animal? It’s all vile.

That aside, what kind of percentage of meat are you expecting in your meat pie? I assume you want the gravy and the pastry right? They’re going to take up a certain percentage you know. You want 100% meat, go eat a steak.


Paul July 22, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Its fair to say that i am 42% athlete, given i exercise on 3 out of the 7 days of the week, right?
Or would i have to exercise all day to claim that?


MellissaD July 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm

I love pies and I really don’t care from which animals or parts they are made from. In times past, not a single part of an animal was wasted. So I shall continue to enjoy my meat-ish pies feeling not in the least grossed out. Waste not, want not!


In the L Section of Names July 26, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Where I live, pies are one of our -many- foods of choice down south; I myself can’t resist a chicken pot pie, despite having to pick through its carcass contents as it cools first (with a utensil, of course). :P

Then it’s time to dig in! XD


sra September 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Most interesting read Mr Harper…

I’m not a pie eater, but I will eat a Smiths Specialty Pie, Salamanca Markets, Hobart. They pride themselves with not using offal as part of the meat pie.Love the Cheese and Cauliflower pie, yummo


wesleywhatford September 24, 2011 at 11:17 am

just bought 2pies first egg and bacon (they said it was) 2 bites and binned it..second chicken it was supposed to have been also binned …pastry soggy,told the asian owner how awful they were and had just been ripped off for $7 all of a sudden she no speak english..so if your ever in Monbulk Vic.have a Mars bar


Anonymous January 10, 2012 at 5:51 pm

To be completely honest. I don’t care. I assumed it. I think that’s the goodies because it mean nothing goes to waste. The good meat goes to the butcher while the rest is put in a meat pie. Fair enough. The preservatives make it taste good anyway. If it can be eaten and someone lives through it and eats it again and lives through it, it’s food. Hence I will eat a meat pie when and where I like and I will enjoy it.


MH December 7, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Aah good ole blind faith at any cost.


Me September 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Why do all Australians think they are the only country in the world who eat meat pies and that they invented them? You can buy them all around the world and have been able to for decades.

Get a life!


Lucy January 30, 2014 at 11:23 am

They don’t. You’re massively overreacting and you cannot possibly have met ‘all Australians’. But I’m sure generalising wildly and throwing accusations about helps you avoid ‘thinking’ and ‘rational conversation’, which are clearly difficult for you.


Martin April 24, 2013 at 10:25 am

Anonymous, this IS the land of the deep fried mars bar. Research it – Scotland is famous for it, but it actually originated in Australia


Anonymous June 15, 2013 at 7:43 pm

God dang I never eat a pie again


Dave October 23, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Having just fallen victim to an evening meal featuring a Herbert Adams Pepper Steak Pie, I decided to Google “Herbert Adams awful pies”.
This article says it all.
Bloody offal!


MH December 7, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Sooo dare I ask what the rest of the pie consists of?


Farrah January 9, 2014 at 3:03 am


Let me just say this:
Anything you buy from a freezer usually contains artificial crap to keep it on the shelf longer. It’s a sales tactic. For any market to purchace something, they must be aware of how long it can sit on the shelf because if it expires too soon it won’t sell out. Therefore, the meat pies contain all these artificial preservatives. As well as almost everything you buy already done for you. Good morning!!!

Now with that being said, meat pies are SO simple to make at home!!!! I am a Lebanese woman and if you did not know, meat pies originate from the Lebanese. All it is is ground beef, LOTS of tomatoes for extra flavor (I like to put more tomatoes than meat) and salt and pepper. And of course, some dough. This is the traditional way of making the meat pie and if you haven’t had it this way then you haven’t had real meat pies. And the beauty of it, is you can freeze them after baking them and let them thaw when you want more again. Try it! It’s easy I promise!


Anonymous March 25, 2014 at 7:11 pm

The solution to the lack of meat in the meat pie is simple, EAT MORE PIES!! buy the 6 pack of pies for $3 at coles. At the end of the day protien is still protien and ur not gna get any protien or fat from the carrot are you?


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