24 July 2011

A proposal to tell consumers what's in meat

Yesterday I was purchasing some luncheon meats from the deli counter at our local Target store, and requested some "all-natural" chicken.  While she was slicing it, I asked if "all-natural" meant that no water was added.  She replied that it meant no artificial flavors were added.  She paused.  Then laughed... "They're all pumped up with water."  I knew that, but was hoping...

Here's some excerpts from an AP report this week:
A proposed rule aimed at food companies would require that poultry and other raw meats be labeled appropriately when they're plumped up by added solutions such as chicken broth, teriyaki sauce, salt or water. The practice of adding those ingredients is common, but many consumers don't know about it.

According to USDA, about one-third of poultry, 15 percent of beef and 90 percent of pork may have added ingredients - about 40 percent of all raw, whole cuts of meat...

An example of the new labels would be "chicken breast - 40% added solution of water and teriyaki sauce," according to USDA.

Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council says the poultry industry is split on the issue, as some companies add ingredients to their poultry and some don't. He said that for those who do add ingredients to poultry, the level of additives is generally 15 to 18 percent of the piece of meat...

Consumer groups have been pressuring the department to crack down on the practice for several years, saying the added ingredients are unhealthy.

"Who wants to pay $4.99 a pound for the added water and salt?" said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
And a hat tip to the crazy cat lady for the AP link.


  1. Enough extra liquid is pumped into meat they have to put little sponges in the packaging to absorb the liquid when prepackaging. Kinda sad.

  2. This is why I shop at the Carnecerias. Plenty of grass fed beef from local small farmers, who are downsizing their herds because of drought. Major feedlots and processors aren't accepting cattle or are offering low prices. Small lot butchers are able to beat the prices and lean and clean grass fed beef with the flavor of the land at very low prices. If you don't have Chicano meat markets in your area, try a Halal butcher, though I find their prices to be rather high. I haven't tried the kosher stores as they are mostly located in Bellaire and Meyerland, bit of a drive,

    Interesting moment of multiculturalism. Used to have a gf out in the burbs. Drove by a place that does small scale meat and game processing. Saw a truck for a Halal butcher parked there once. Turns out they keep one part of their facilities ritually clean for Halal processing. And this is in teabagger territory!

    There's the whole issue of using carbon monoxide to make meat stay red longer. That works because CO strongly bonds to hemoglobin and myoglobin. Don't see how there's much risk there, but it's still kinda creepy.

  3. I went on a long end of year field trip and talked with the bus driver a bit. He said he had driven a convention of Oscar Meyer workers to something once and they had this chant,

    Cheer Leader: "What's the number one ingredient in Oscar Meyer ham?"

    Crowd of Minion Workers: "Water!"

    He said the whole bus responded, without hesitation, and then laughed.

  4. The carbon monoxide has been used since at least the 1980s when I used to give lectures about it. No risk to people, other than indirectly by covering up the color of old meat.

  5. Teriyaki sauce? Hm. I knew most chicken was plumped with saline, I didn't realize there were significant amounts of other stuff. Most teriyaki includes soy sauce, which is usually about half wheat and half soy - I wonder if this means a large amount of meat is not suitable for severely gluten-intolerant people, or if we're talking about different types of teriyaki here.

    I'm in favor of telling people what's in their food. I have a sneaky feeling it would do a lot for public health.

  6. Last month I bought a pack of frozen, pre-cooked Foster Farms Chicken Tenders that were on sale. Just nuke 'em and eat 'em, I had to give them a try.
    Talk about horrible texture! They were like chicken-flavored sponges; they'd compress when you bit into them and squirt out a bunch of juice. Definitely water-added!


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