Boastful Boar’s Head Easily Delivers 50% of Daily Sodium at Lunch

Boar's Head Deception. September 2010.

Boar’s Head celebrates that they’re the first deli company to meet the New York City Department of Health’s National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI) recommended 2012 target levels for sodium in deli cold cuts and cheeses. The ad above appeared on a MetroNorth train from New York to New Haven in early September, 2010.  It makes a bold claim. So bold, that I’d expect to see a typical deli sandwich have less than 50% of my sodium for the day.  Sadly that’s not true. Boar’s Head is benefiting from not actually selling sandwiches.

Delis use 6 oz,  10 oz or sometimes even 1 pound (16 oz) of of meat per sandwich. So, when I let the deli make my sandwich, I’m getting about 50%-100% of my days sodium from just the meat. Let alone the bread, which can easily add another 10% of your daily recommended sodium.

“Maple Glazed Honey Turkey” is of my go-to deli meats . Yet, I don’t really know how that meat gets to my plate, as it doesn’t look like the turkey my mom makes on Thanksgiving.  Something happens along the way, which adds lots of salt.

Boar's Head Nutrition info

The nutrition info above is for 2 oz servings.  Yet, my sandwiches I make for myself are typically a  quarter-pound, or 4 ounces. Turns out that my conservative quarter-pound of turkey meat is giving me 36% of my salt for the day–before counting the bun.

Boars’ Head met the guidelines put out by NYC for deli meats ( NYC recommends 810mg of salt per 100 g of meat ). Yet, my complete deli lunch on a turkey sandwich can still contain 100% of my salt for the day. See how:

  • Boar’s Head Honey Maple Turkey (1/2 lb, 72% of daily sodium)
  • Arnold Kaiser Roll (1 roll, 1 serving, 11% of daily sodium)
  • Small bag of Lay’s Potato Chips (1 oz bag, 1 serving, 7% of daily sodium)
  • Can of Coke ( 12 oz can, 1 serving, 2% of daily sodium)

Unless Boar’s Head  encourages 2 oz or 4 oz servings of their meat, they should stop being so boastful.

This is a great opportunity for delis to make more money while making customers healthy. It’s simple: delis should advertise & price by portion size, using current prices for the small recommended portion size. Consider a deli menu offering 3 meat sizes, with prices relative to your current prices:

  • Healthy-size (4oz): less $0.50
  • Full-size (8oz):  plus $1.00
  • Super-size (12oz):  plus $3.00

What do you think?  Should Boar’s Head be less boastful?  Should delis standardize and charge for the amount of meat in each sandwich?

[UPDATE on 9/10:   3 oz of fresh turkey has 55g to 80g of sodium-- that's 90% less than Boar's Head's Low Sodium offerings! Put another way, Boar's Head's Low Sodium turkey has 500-1000% more sodium! So, my preferred outcome is that delis in NYC carry freshly roasted turkey that is free of the unnecessary sodium. ]

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  • Boar’s Head Brand

    Hi Phil. Boar’s Head Brand here. We saw your Twitter posts today with a link to your blog. We do understand your concern and want you to know that we do encourage creating sandwiches with 2-4 oz of meat. (We post nutrition info. based on 2oz of meat according to USDA regulations.)

    You are correct in the fact that we cannot control the size of the sandwich the deli makes or the consumer orders. What we are “boastful” about is that for decades we have offered the consumer dozens of lower sodium meats and cheeses (you only have 2 lower sodium meats posted above), and that we already meet the 2012 and 2014 NSRI deli meat and cheese category target levels.

    Don’t be fooled by lower sodium claims where fillers are used to keep sodium levels down. We will continue to use the best raw materials in creating our flavorful whole muscle deli meats that don’t require a lot of added salt to bring out natural flavors.

    Have a great day!

  • Phil

    Boar’s Head Brand,

    Thank you for ensuring your story gets told.

    I find your claim that you don’t use “a lot of added salt” misleading.

    A MacDonalds Quarter Pounder, which includes a 4 oz Beef Patty, Sesame Seed Bun, Ketchup, Mustard, Pickle Slices, Slivered Onions has 730mg Sodium.

    A quarter pound turkey sandwich using a middle of the line Boars Head turkey, such as 4oz of maple honey turkey (880mg Sodium) and a hard roll (260mg Sodium), would have 1,040mg Sodium–that’s 40% more than MacDonalds. And if you use Cajun Smoked Turkey, it’s 140% more sodium than a MacDonalds Quarter Pounder!

  • Andrew Johnson

    Rather than quibble over the volume of sodium in processed meat, the question is should you even be eating it at all? (per

    I think processed meat deserves a place as a rarity, not an item to be eaten on demand for a casual lunch. I’ve changed my sandwich habits this year and have no regrets. Ham can wait for Easter where I have the opportunity to enjoy it.

  • Phil


    Thank you very much for your comment and the link. Frightening stuff!

    I’m looking to switch my casual lunch habit. I’ve added salads and started grilling chicken breasts more. What do you do for quick, healthy lunches at home and on the go?