Monday, June 20, 2011

Beware "Enhanced Chicken" - When Is Chicken Not Clean

     American eat an average of 87 pounds of chicken per year, up 81% from 48 pounds in 1980. This makes the plumping practice in poultry processing even more troubling. About one-third of the fresh chicken found in supermarket meat cases has been synthetically saturated with a mix of water, salt, and other additives via needle injections and high-pressure vacuum tumbling. The process is designed to make naturally lean poultry meat juicier and more tender. A 4-ounce serving of what the industry calls "enhanced" poultry can contain as much as 440mg sodium. They blow it up with a sodium broth like a chicken balloon.

     Worse, it's 500% more sodium than is found naturally in untreated chicken. Yet the word "natural" can be used on the labels of these injected birds. USDA labeling policies give poultry companies a green light to label their enhanced products "100% natural" or "all natural," even though they've been injected with ingredients in concentrations that do not naturally occur in a chicken. (Like many foods, chicken contains trace amounts of sodium and other minerals.)
      With injections totaling 15% or more of the meat's weight, a 7-pound enhanced chicken might net only 6 pounds of meat. Do the math: At $2.99 per pound, you've paid a premium of up to $0.45 per pound for added salt and water. This processing method is typically found in the "store brand" no-name trays of chicken breasts - but beware, it can also be found among some of the largest producers of chicken.

     Processors are required to disclose the injections, but the lettering on the packaging can be small and inconspicuous. To know if you're picking up an enhanced product, squint at the fine print, which will list something like, "contains up to 15% chicken broth."

You can also check the ingredient list, and, of course, look for the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label. If the chicken is truly natural, the sodium content won't stray higher than 70mg per serving. 
 Either buy chicken labeled organic ( it will not be treated with plumping agents ) or inspect your chicken purchases carefully!