'THEY USED THE FACE OF THE COW': Papa John reveals disturbing truth that convinced the pizza chain to make a major change
So, sticking to the motto of "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza." sometimes means that Papa John's needs to do things differently than competitors.
Founder and CEO John Schnatter told Business Insider that utilizing better ingredients has been crucial to Papa John's success since the first restaurant opened in 1985.
However, over time, the chain has found areas that could use improvement. One of those changes happened roughly 20 years ago, when Schnatter visited a supplier's farm to see - quite literally - how the sausage used to top Papa John's pizza was made.
"I was watching them do things with the sausage that I didn't like," Schnatter said. "They used the hoof of the cow. They used the face of the cow."
It's fairly common practice for sausage suppliers to use "head meat," or the ears, snouts, and cheeks of cows and pigs, when making sausage. According to Schnatter, the supplier at the time was even adding chicken, a less expensive protein, into the mix.
Papa John's supplier told Schnatter that the pizza industry was "notorious" for using parts of the animal that may otherwise go unused.
"That was the first lesson in not doing what everybody else was doing, because what everybody else was doing was not what we're about," Schnatter said.
Schnatter said that Papa John's convinced the supplier to sell the company a sausage made with better cuts of meat, without fillers. While the better sausage came at a price, Schnatter said it was a worthy investment.
Papa John's now spends $100 million a year on higher quality ingredients.
"I want something I can stand behind, because I eat this, and my kids are eating this," he said.
Today, Papa John's website states that its sausage contains pork, water, seasoning, and salt.
Pizza Hut's Italian sausage also contains pork, seasoning, water, and salt. Domino's Italian sausage contains pork, seasoning (made of spices, salt, corn syrup, paprika, garlic powder, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, BHA, BHT, and citric acid), water, and sodium tripolyphosphate.
The promise of "better" ingredients has recently become a major theme in the fast-food industry - especially at Papa John's. In October 2016, the company reported it completed its mission to remove 14 artificial ingredients from the menu, including corn syrup and caramel color.
This article has been updated to reflect Pizza Hut's current sausage ingredients.