How Much Water is in my CHICKEN??

February 5, 2014

This is something I often talk to customers of Norton Farms about when they are asking me what makes our chicken different than supermarket chicken besides what we feed them and how they are allowed to run free.

As many people think buying organic or naturally raised meat is expensive or at least more expensive than at the supermarket. This subject shows how at our current chicken price of $3.99 per lbs. ,and the supermarket price of approx. $2.99 per  for a whole chicken the reality is the price is about the same for what you are actually getting.

In a widespread practice the chicken industry likes to call ‘enhancing’, ‘plumping’ or ‘pumping’, chicken is injected with water, salt and other additives for what they say is to help it stay juicier and more flavorful.   The package may tell you the chicken is “enhanced with chicken broth” – but what’s in  it, and in what quantities?   You most likely won’t find that information on the label, because meat processors aren’t obligated to inform the consumer.

Manufacturers insist the process, which involves tumbling the chicken, water and additives in a machine like a cement mixer, improves the succulence.

The trouble with this preparation is two-fold.  First, customers don’t know what they are eating.  As  people try to listen to doctors’ warnings and take in a low-sodium diet, they may be unwittingly ingesting way more salt in their meal than they know.   A 6 oz. serving of plain, non-enhanced chicken might have 60 to 90 mg of sodium.  But the ‘enhanced’ version?  Up to 550 mg – about 20% of the recommended daily maximum, and that’s before an unwitting chef takes it home to season it even further.

Second, what are we really paying for: chicken or water?  Say you buy a package of boneless chicken breasts at the supermarket for $5.00/lb.   If they’re “enhanced with 15% chicken broth” (as many are) then you’re getting about $4.25 worth of chicken, and $0.75 of water and fillers.   In fact, according to the Truthful Labeling Coalition, “the US government estimates that consumers spend $2 billion per year buying salt water at chicken prices.”  That’s some expensive salt water we’re shelling out for.

The mixture of salt, water and who knows what is spun in drums for an hour or longer until the chicken has absorbed it. The additives include phosphates to stop water leaking out during cooking. Stores are not breaking the law by selling chicken with added water but, do not always inform the customer that it is in the chicken.

Do you have chicken in your fridge or freezer?  Go check the label and see what it says.  Is it ‘enhanced’?  What’s the sodium content?  Leave us a comment and tell us about it.

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