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Calorie Count Blog

Who Put Water in My Chicken?


By +Carolyn Richardson on Aug 31, 2011 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

Americans reportedly consume 60.4 pounds of chicken each year.  It’s not 100% protein; in fact, there’s more water in chicken than anything else.  It comes from a variety of sources and nutrition labels only tell half of the story.  While the Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently proposed a new rule that would require a more prominent label for meats that have added solutions, usually salt and water, a new label won’t reveal how the water in your chicken got there.  

Naturally-Occurring Water

Poultry has a large amount of naturally occurring water, including muscle, connective tissue, fat, and bone. While people eat chicken for the protein content in the muscle, it’s important to note, depending on the cut, chicken is approximately 75% water, and only about 20% protein, with the remainder being fat, carbohydrate and minerals.  You can expect to lose about 6-8% of your chicken’s weight in naturally-occurring water after cooking. 

Retained Water

After being slaughtered, many chickens are cooled in what’s called a “chill tank” of moving water.  During this process, water is absorbed.  According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA, the retained or absorbed water from this process must be prominently displayed on the nutrition label.  They report 8 to 12% of absorbed water in poultry as “not unusual.” But, not all chickens go through this process.

Purge

If you’ve wondered about the extra “juice” you see in raw chicken packaging, that is called purge or weep.  It is caused by temperature changes the meat endures in refrigerated trucks.  The trucks carry the meat at low temperatures, sometimes as cold as 1°F.  However, the meat is usually displayed at grocery stores at 26°F and kept in your refrigerator at around 40°F. The gradual increase in temperature causes the meat to loosen up and slowly release moisture.

Plumping with Flavoring Solutions

Whether it’s soaked, marinated, or injected, many chicken items have a solution of water and salt or other flavoring in them.  Under the proposed rule the name of the product would have to include the percentage of added solution, and the individual components of that solution.  For example, "chicken breast – 40% added solution of water and teriyaki sauce."  For now, the package may not indicate as such on the front, but the nutrition label and/or ingredients should reflect this addition. The labeling term “marinate” can only be used with specific amounts of solution.  Marinated boneless chicken can contain no more than 8%; and bone-in chicken is limited to 3% solution.   


Your thoughts…

Do you eat “plumped” chicken purposely or do you think it should be illegal to add salt and water to it?



Comments


This is why I refuse to buy pre marinated meats. Not only do they do this crap, but I am convinced that they marinate slow moving, close coded meat to get rid of it, and to somewhat hide how old, or how damaged the meat is. This "plumping" practise is a product of greedy corporate "farms".

When I lived in a rural part of Ontario, I splurged one time on a local farmers chicken. To my absolute surprise the breast I cooked shrank very little to almost no shrinkage what so ever. Not only did it not shrink, the colour was vastly different than the corporate chicken that has been processed many times over. The taste was far and away better as well. Since it did not shrink, I cooked way more than I need to for my family. What used to take 4 breasts took just 3, and I could have gotten away with 2. After that, I tried the turkey, and same result. The price was a it more expensive, but at the same time, I did not cook 1/4-1/2  of the weight away either. 



please don't blame the farmer for what happens after the chicken leaves his farm



This is hidden inflation.  While it may improve taste (questionable),  the water in that meat is mighty expensive.  If you compare prices with meat that doesn't have water added,  you'll find it to be about the "same price?".  Talk about water weight gain!  



Places like whole foods carry "air chilled" chicken which avoids a lot of this.



Another reason why I'm a vegan.



The fact that coorporate can get away with not labelling their products thruthfully makes me sick. Tell us what you freaking put in our chicken.



Check out this 2min animated short film. It summaries everything!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMfSGt6rHos&feature=playe r_embedded



I don't want to upset anyone, these sorts of facts make me so glad I do not eat meat.


@chips5kids I don't really think this is an issue with the farmers but, the corporations that these chickens and other animals are raised for. Something else, when this "solution" is added it causes the meat to weigh more. So, not only does it cook away but, you're also paying for water. Very greedy ideed!



This video is awesome.  And did you notice how many times it's been viewed?!



Original Post by: outlawwilly

This is why I refuse to buy pre marinated meats. Not only do they do this crap, but I am convinced that they marinate slow moving, close coded meat to get rid of it, and to somewhat hide how old, or how damaged the meat is. This "plumping" practise is a product of greedy corporate "farms".

When I lived in a rural part of Ontario, I splurged one time on a local farmers chicken. To my absolute surprise the breast I cooked shrank very little to almost no shrinkage what so ever. Not only did it not shrink, the colour was vastly different than the corporate chicken that has been processed many times over. The taste was far and away better as well. Since it did not shrink, I cooked way more than I need to for my family. What used to take 4 breasts took just 3, and I could have gotten away with 2. After that, I tried the turkey, and same result. The price was a it more expensive, but at the same time, I did not cook 1/4-1/2  of the weight away either. 


You say you don't buy marinated meat ... well, in case you buy "regular" water chilled chicken, your chicken is "marinated" by default because it is swimming for 45 minutes in a cold broth-like liquid that used to be plain water and looks more like raw sewage after tens of thousands of chicken passed through.

 

The only way to avoid that is air-chilled chicken, marketed under the brand name "Smart Chicken" in the US. Water chilling chicken is not legal in Europe and other parts of the world, for sanitary and quality reasons.



I work for a turkey slaughter plant, and my particular plant only has one department that does any injection. I can guarantee you we don't use old outdated meat to make it taste better, in the business, its hey would you want to eat this? If the answer is no, we wouldn't sell it to a consumer.



I am learning  so much about the foods we eat today that it makes me want to live in the country and grow my own veggies and raise my own livestock. I was touched by cancer in 2009. And eating good food is very important to me than ever before. So I got involved with the Community Garden Program and had the best garden I've ever had. So when it comes to meat, I try not to eat so much of it. And I try to buy whole or organic meats. I would love support my local farmers that sell organic or whole poultry and lamb. But it's pretty pricey. But I am going to see if I can get some  people together and perhaps share the expense of buying whole meats from local farmers that raise good wholesome livestock. And that way it I am not eating the whole cost nor wasting food. And I am supporting my local farmer. I do by fresh eggs from nearby farms too. Sometimes I want to give up the car for a horse and wagon, and live in the country to a more simpler life! Don't you?

 



The water is only the tip of the problems involved with eating flesh.... http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/jan uary/food/chicken-safety/overview/chicken-safety-ov.htm

glad I'm not involved with this anymore.



This is why we only eat chickens from a local farmer. We know they are fresh slaughtered and there is nothing funny in them.



I object to paying $ per pound for water in chicken, but what I refuse to buy is any poultry with added salt. I always read carefully to learn the sodium content. If it is indicative of salt water having been added I don't buy the product. I may pay a few pennies more, but I am paying for chicken not salt and water.



I have been using air-chilled chicken for some time and have found that there is little shrinkage in the meat. Maple Leaf distributes air-chilled chicken, sometimes under the store name. It is definitely worth the extra money. There are several smaller processors that distribute air-chilled chicken. The natural flavour is better as well.



Yep, I can really tell the difference when I buy the no additives chicken.  When I cook it up in olive oil, I drain off only olive oil, and not the half cup or so of water that makes my stir fry a steamed mess instead of nice seared pieces of chicken.  It's pretty ridiculous how much gets added to poultry.



so i'm paying 4.65 a pound for water.. interesting



I've worked in the meat departments of various grocery stores ten or more years ago when my kids were little and that's the only employment I could find to support them. 

There exist various schools of thought as far as the aging process on red meats and the mandatory three-day shelf life given to all meat products on shelves.  In the days when beef was shipped to the grocery store by the "side" and truly cut by skilled meat cutters onsite, the sides were often "aged" in the cooler for a week or two, until they would at least form a green film on the outside.  This would break down then enzymes in the meat and act to increase the flavor and tenderness.  When the meat was cut, this outside layer was skillfully cut away.

Today, red meat is packed in cyrovac packages by the larger cuts at the slaughter house and sent to the stores in boxes where the cutters simply open a package, drain the blood and trim and cut the steaks or roasts.  There is no aging process and no one really knows how long the meat has been sealed, marinating in its own fluids until it reaches the store.

Even then, the meat is immediately wrapped again and sent out to sit in the store case for sale, again marinating in what soon becomes putrid blood and fluids.  Oftentimes, the meat turns black before the date-code expires and should be reduced for immediate sale before its completely gone.

But, unscrupulous managers will oftentimes bring the darkened meat back into the meatroom and have the clerks cover it with seasoning or sauce and call it something new, ironically often marking it up.  Or they'll throw it in the grinder bucket to add to ground beef mix, which will actually spoil even more quickly on the shelf.

Nowadays, most red meat is even cut and wrapped completely at the slaughter house and shipped in to the grocery where low-paid clerks stock the shelves.  The days of the meat cutter trade as a living wage trade are nearly extinct.  Slaughter house meat cutters make barely a living wage and are famous for participating in the coyote market of mass scale human labor smuggling.

Chicken also is packed this way, using low-paid workers in depressed areas such as the south, who work on an assembly line of chicken processing that includes cutting the chicken into pieces and packaging and weighing them for sale right at the plant.  Then at the grocery level, a clerk simply stocks the shelves with the packages they take out of a larger box.

These pre-packaged products are packed with CO2 if I remember correctly in a process that sucks out the oxygen and replaces it with CO2 which retards the organic degradation process. 


Also, these products are shipped at such low temperatures that often they arrive at the store partially or completely frozen but are sold to the public as "fresh".  I've never known anyone anywhere to re-wrap chicken products that have gone past their date because of the serious threat of deadly salmonella which will develop rapidly in old poultry.  The same for pork.

So not only is "water" an issue with the meat products you buy at the grocery store (even small grocers will buy their meat products from the few major producers -- such as AGAR because local resources are impossible to find or offer the profit margin/rate of sales necessary for most grocers), but the way in which the meat is "processed".

The destructive labor practices, the shifting of profits from the communities to huge international conglomerates and the deceptive and unhealthy food handling practices all should give people pause.

Couple that with the fact that we in the US eat more protein than most of the world and at least double what we really need; if not going vegan, at least cutting down on the amount of animal protein one consumes isn't a bad idea.

 



This is only a fraction of what kind of crap is going on in farming. Antibiotics and   whatever else are being used to fatten up chickens too grow them faster. The chickens can't even walk and their organs can't compete with the accelerated growth. Its bad for the animals, but its bad for us to ingest it also.

We wonder why so many people have new age illnesses and allergies and why antibiotics aren't working for fighting illnesses anymore.

If the governments try to regulate the use of antibiotics etc.  and make meats more organic then we will be competing with other countries who don't.

The consumers have to make better choices. Sometimes the cheapest isn't the best.



Read chapter 3 of Jonathan Safran-Foer's "Eating Animals" and I assure you, you will never eat chicken again, ever.

Blughghhh...I'm pretty sure I swore off chicken forever like three of four sentences in.  Here are some quotes from this chapter:

"Next the chickens go to a massive refrigerated tank of water, where thousands of birds are communally cooled. Tom Devine, from the Government Accountability Project, has said that the “water in these tanks has been aptly named ‘fecal soup’ for all the filth and bacteria floating around. By immersing clean, healthy birds in the same tank with dirty ones, you’re practically assuring cross-contamination.

While a significant number of European and Canadian poultry processors employ air-chilling systems, 99 percent of US poultry producers have stayed with water-immersion systems and fought lawsuits from both consumers and the beef industry to continue the outmoded use of water-chilling. It’s not hard to figure out why. Air-chilling reduces the weight of a bird’s carcass, but water-chilling causes a dead bird to soak up water (the same water known as “fecal soup”). One study has shown that simply placing the chicken carcasses in sealed plastic bags during the chilling stage would eliminate cross-contamination. But that would also eliminate an opportunity for the industry to turn wastewater into tens of millions of dollars’ worth of additional weight in poultry products."



One more note:  why is it that you must cook chicken thoroughly?  To kill off all the bacteria from the 'fecal soup' they've been floating in and absorbing.  It's all still in there, though, just not as easily able to harm you once heated enough. But still....yuck.



Great way for the producers etc to increase their profits!!  I guess it is better than the other ways of giving them hormones to increase their appetites to "fatten" them up so they will bring in more money.  It's the almighty dollar that moves everything in business.  That's why we do need strong governmental regulations on absolutely everything to protect us, the people of the United States of America, from business practices that are unfair.   



Original Post by: rosl

I don't want to upset anyone, these sorts of facts make me so glad I do not eat meat.

Not that avoiding meat is a beat idea but everything else may just as questionable, contaminated, and harmful as meat. Even when you grow your own vegetables you often don't know what construction workers, previous home owners, or neighbors poured in the ground - stuff that ultimately ends up in your home grown food. Then, when you find a solution for that you have to worry about the cremes, shampoo, make-up you may use. Then there is the air you breathe, the quality of your local water and the toxins in the construction materials in your house, your carpet, and in your clothes.

It's just when you apply the same standards for making the decision about eating meat or not on other things ... you're not left with many options. And that's not even considering the employment conditions of the workers in the countries who produce yoru food, clothes, and furniture.



Original Post by: kidextraordinaire

Read chapter 3 of Jonathan Safran-Foer's "Eating Animals" and I assure you, you will never eat chicken again, ever.

Blughghhh...I'm pretty sure I swore off chicken forever like three of four sentences in.  Here are some quotes from this chapter:

"Next the chickens go to a massive refrigerated tank of water, where thousands of birds are communally cooled. Tom Devine, from the Government Accountability Project, has said that the “water in these tanks has been aptly named ‘fecal soup’ for all the filth and bacteria floating around. By immersing clean, healthy birds in the same tank with dirty ones, you’re practically assuring cross-contamination.

While a significant number of European and Canadian poultry processors employ air-chilling systems, 99 percent of US poultry producers have stayed with water-immersion systems and fought lawsuits from both consumers and the beef industry to continue the outmoded use of water-chilling. It’s not hard to figure out why. Air-chilling reduces the weight of a bird’s carcass, but water-chilling causes a dead bird to soak up water (the same water known as “fecal soup”). One study has shown that simply placing the chicken carcasses in sealed plastic bags during the chilling stage would eliminate cross-contamination. But that would also eliminate an opportunity for the industry to turn wastewater into tens of millions of dollars’ worth of additional weight in poultry products."


I can attest from first hand experience that every word you wrote is true - although strictly speaking, the USDA (Inspectors) do not allow fecal contamination in the ugly brown looking soup the chicken are floating in. Now the USDA Inspectors get minimum wage and independent only in theory because if they make a call, 45,000 chicken would have to be discarded (the content of a chiller). You don't see that very often ...

Fecal soup or not, the water in the chiller looks not like something you want close to your food.

If you don't like that, here in the US you have to buy "Smart Chicken" from MBA Poultry. It's more expensive but you get what you pay for.



I don't think I want anything added to my meat before I get it homeFrown.



Comment Removed

for years, every thanksgiving the turkey would make me literally sick, finally i started buying all natural turkeys with no additives and guess what, not sick.  the  same holds true for the chicks!)

 



Comment Removed

Wow. I am amazed at how many people who don't buy supermarket meats (or any meats) are trolling through this article. OK, we get it - corporate greed poisoning the little guy, on purpose, for big profits. And Republicans want to kill old people and children, and the oil companies have bought up all the really good perpetual motion devices.

All wonderful opinions, I suppose. Now let's talk some facts. Never have so few people fed so many. Never have life expectancies been so high. Never has any society had such a remarkable choice of fresh foods. Our biggest health problem is too many calories being consumed by the poor.

So get off the farmers and corporations backs. Try to find some happiness in life. Relax.



This is gross and I already cant even think about chicken ever again since Istopped eating it, this just adds to my disgust!!!



Original Post by: dfinnie

Wow. I am amazed at how many people who don't buy supermarket meats (or any meats) are trolling through this article. OK, we get it - corporate greed poisoning the little guy, on purpose, for big profits. And Republicans want to kill old people and children, and the oil companies have bought up all the really good perpetual motion devices.

All wonderful opinions, I suppose. Now let's talk some facts. Never have so few people fed so many. Never have life expectancies been so high. Never has any society had such a remarkable choice of fresh foods. Our biggest health problem is too many calories being consumed by the poor.

So get off the farmers and corporations backs. Try to find some happiness in life. Relax.


You don't dig very deep when you come up with your opinion, do you? The world is much bigger than your limitted area of concern and capacity to embrace issues that are little more complex than your Fox and Friends make you believe.


"Now let's talk some facts. Never have so few people fed so many." 

Dfinne:  you do realize that if you redirect even a small percentage of all the grain that goes into producing meat you could feed every hungry mouth on the planet?

It takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. (Source:National Geographic)

It takes 7 pounds of corn to produce 1 pound of beef. (Source: USDA AmberWaves newsletter)

 



A Chipotle advertisement?



Original Post by: kateinnh

I've worked in the meat departments of various grocery stores ten or more years ago when my kids were little and that's the only employment I could find to support them. 

There exist various schools of thought as far as the aging process on red meats and the mandatory three-day shelf life given to all meat products on shelves.  In the days when beef was shipped to the grocery store by the "side" and truly cut by skilled meat cutters onsite, the sides were often "aged" in the cooler for a week or two, until they would at least form a green film on the outside.  This would break down then enzymes in the meat and act to increase the flavor and tenderness.  When the meat was cut, this outside layer was skillfully cut away.

Today, red meat is packed in cyrovac packages by the larger cuts at the slaughter house and sent to the stores in boxes where the cutters simply open a package, drain the blood and trim and cut the steaks or roasts.  There is no aging process and no one really knows how long the meat has been sealed, marinating in its own fluids until it reaches the store.

Even then, the meat is immediately wrapped again and sent out to sit in the store case for sale, again marinating in what soon becomes putrid blood and fluids.  Oftentimes, the meat turns black before the date-code expires and should be reduced for immediate sale before its completely gone.

But, unscrupulous managers will oftentimes bring the darkened meat back into the meatroom and have the clerks cover it with seasoning or sauce and call it something new, ironically often marking it up.  Or they'll throw it in the grinder bucket to add to ground beef mix, which will actually spoil even more quickly on the shelf.

Nowadays, most red meat is even cut and wrapped completely at the slaughter house and shipped in to the grocery where low-paid clerks stock the shelves.  The days of the meat cutter trade as a living wage trade are nearly extinct.  Slaughter house meat cutters make barely a living wage and are famous for participating in the coyote market of mass scale human labor smuggling.

Chicken also is packed this way, using low-paid workers in depressed areas such as the south, who work on an assembly line of chicken processing that includes cutting the chicken into pieces and packaging and weighing them for sale right at the plant.  Then at the grocery level, a clerk simply stocks the shelves with the packages they take out of a larger box.

These pre-packaged products are packed with CO2 if I remember correctly in a process that sucks out the oxygen and replaces it with CO2 which retards the organic degradation process. 


Also, these products are shipped at such low temperatures that often they arrive at the store partially or completely frozen but are sold to the public as "fresh".  I've never known anyone anywhere to re-wrap chicken products that have gone past their date because of the serious threat of deadly salmonella which will develop rapidly in old poultry.  The same for pork.

So not only is "water" an issue with the meat products you buy at the grocery store (even small grocers will buy their meat products from the few major producers -- such as AGAR because local resources are impossible to find or offer the profit margin/rate of sales necessary for most grocers), but the way in which the meat is "processed".

The destructive labor practices, the shifting of profits from the communities to huge international conglomerates and the deceptive and unhealthy food handling practices all should give people pause.

Couple that with the fact that we in the US eat more protein than most of the world and at least double what we really need; if not going vegan, at least cutting down on the amount of animal protein one consumes isn't a bad idea.

 


Lots of good points.  I disagree with a few.

1.  Cryovac packages I have seen always have a pack date on them.  I have bought whole tenderloin and actually aged them myself.  It is generally safe to do if the package is sealed.  If you try it, make sure you know what you are doing.  Stored at about 32 degrees, I have consumed meat 30 days after the pack date (same as what you'll get if you buy aged beef at a pricey restaurant).  Much above that temperature, you're taking a big risk.

2.  Packaging meat with CO2 actually isn't a bad idea at all.  I believe most organisms that make meat go bad require oxygen, so the meat really does stay safe longer?  I prefer the taste of fresh ground burger though.

3. I believe that the formal definition of "previously frozen" is that the meat was never stored below zero degrees (or maybe +10F).  Obviously, for some cuts of meat, chicken especially, I would think any reasonable person would recognize this as frozen.  But there is a legal definition of the term, and while it may not mean what you think, it does mean exactly what it says at the FDA.



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