An interesting article popped up in the Wall Street Journal a couple days ago. Chip Hoaglund at Cherry Capital Foods brought it to our attention. You can read the article in its entirety as it covers more than just chicken and is quite interesting. Here is an exerpt from “What’s Really in Many ‘Healthy’ Foods:”
A lot of Americans think they’re eating a healthy diet these days. But it’s easy to be fooled by our assumptions and the ways that food manufacturers play on them.
Take chicken. The average American eats about 90 pounds of it a year, more than twice as much as in the 1970s, part of the switch to lower-fat, lower-cholesterol meat proteins. But roughly one-third of the fresh chicken sold in the U.S. is “plumped” with water, salt and sometimes a seaweed extract called carrageenan that helps it retain the added water. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says chicken processed this way can still be labeled “all natural” or “100% natural” because those are all natural ingredients, even though they aren’t naturally found in chicken.
Producers must mention the added ingredients on the package — but the lettering can be small: just one-third the size of the largest letter in the product’s name. If you’re trying to watch your sodium to cut your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, it pays to check the Nutrition Facts label. Untreated chicken has about 45 to 60 mgs of sodium per four-ounce serving. So-called enhanced or “plumped” chicken has between 200 and 400 mgs of sodium per serving, almost as much as a serving of fast-food french fries.
Adding salt water became widespread when big discount stores began selling groceries and wanted to sell chicken at uniform weights and prices. Plumping packaged chicken helps even out the weight. But that means consumers are paying for added salt water at chicken prices — an estimated $2 billion worth every year, according to the Truthful Labeling Coalition, a group of chicken producers that don’t enhance their products.
Makers of enhanced chicken, including some of the biggest U.S. producers, say many consumers prefer it in blind taste tests and that it stays moister. Ray Atkinson, a spokesman for Pilgrim’s Pride, says the company sells both enhanced and unenhanced chicken because consumers ask for it. He also notes that even at 330 mg of sodium, the enhanced chicken qualifies for the American Heart Association’s mark of approval.
A survey released this week from Foster Farms, a member of the Truthful Labeling Coalition, found that 63% of consumers are unaware of the practice, and 82% believe that salt-water-injected chicken shouldn’t carry the all-natural label. The telephone survey polled 1,000 consumers on the West Coast.
We’ve had anecdotal evidence from several customers on this issue. One customer stocked her freezer after she roasted one chicken, opened the roaster lid and was amazed to find the chicken was the same size. Marc Santucci at Earthy Delights did a blind taste test with his staff. They found the store chicken was moister, but the Baker’s Green Acres chicken was “firmer and more flavorful.” They also found that the Baker chicken carcass made a much better broth for soup/stew than the store chicken. All we can say is Nature does the best job for quality and quality is its own commodity.