On every box of Papa John's pizza, founder and CEO John Schnatter recounts his ongoing mission to "build a better pizza" using "the highest quality ingredients available - like fresh, never frozen original dough, all-natural sauce, veggies sliced fresh daily and 100 percent real beef and pork."

Indeed, Papa John's believes in its promise of "better ingredients, better pizza" so much so, that it made the phrase its official slogan.

But what exactly does "better" mean?

Schnatter makes vague claims, but where can the average consumer go to confirm that Papa John's' ingredients are in any way superior to those found in the pies of its competitors?

Food industry journalist Melanie Warner wondered that too, and set off to find this fabled list of ingredients that's supposedly better.

She started off by asking an employee.

Charlie, who works at a Papa John's restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, suggested Warner look for the answer online.

"I think they're listed on the website," he told Warner, apparently unaware that they were not.

The rest of the company was far less helpful:

When I called Papa John's customer toll free number, I was told that for "additional information on allergen or nutritional info" I should leave a message with Connie Childs, who would return my call the next business day. I left two messages, but Connie never called. Public relations wasn't much help either. My emails and voicemails went unanswered. Only Charlie offered a few thoughts about what exactly makes Papa John's pizza "better."

"We get deliveries in every three days, so nothing that's in the fridge is more than a few days old. And we form the dough here. It doesn't come ready to go, though it is made in a central facility and then frozen," he said, offering a slightly different version of the story than what's printed on the pizza boxes.

Warner goes on to offer up some hypotheticals as to what might make Papa John's better — no chemical dough conditioners, fewer fillers in the meat — but notes that the presence of "a slew of additives" in Papa John's signature garlic dipping sauce "does not inspire confidence."

Consumerist explains why it matters that Papa John's, which makes such a fuss about its "better ingredients," seems to go out of its way to keep them from going public:

The lack of information on what’s in Papa John’s pizza doesn’t necessarily mean the ingredients aren’t “better” or fresh or whathaveyou — it just means that we as consumers don’t know. And that Papa John’s doesn’t really care if its customers have the facts, you’ve just gotta trust it, apparently.

Taking the word of a business whose main goal is to make money is a risky venture. Claiming you use “better” ingredients is an empty statement, unless you can support that statement with actual facts.

As a matter of fact, Pizza Hut once sued Papa John's for claiming its ingredients were "better," and won.

But an appeals court ultimately overturned the ruling, concluding that the slogan was "not an objectionable statement of fact upon which the consumers would be justified in relying."

As one commenter suggested, perhaps Papa John's should tack on an addendum to its existing slogan to clarify its position: "Better ingredients. Better pizza. Better not ask."

[image via Facebook, photo via Deadspin]