More Water With That Chicken?
You’ve just popped down to the shops to pick up a few things for tea.
Walking around you decide you fancy a chicken stir fry, so off you go and get all the veg and noodles and a tasty stir fry sauce.
Then you reach the meat aisle and your trouble begins!
How do you know which chicken to buy that’s meaty and not full of water?
Rows upon rows of chicken breasts, diced chicken, chicken drumsticks and legs all stare at you in their fancy packaging declaring that they have lower water content than the next.
So, you pick the biggest, juiciest looking breast packet you can. You’re thrilled about it because it’s also on offer, or is the cheapest out of an expensive bunch and you just know you’ll get good eating out of it.
But when you get home, cut the chicken into strips and start frying it’s almost as if someone lets the air out of the meat and it shrinks to half its size. What you’re left with is a pretty meatless stir-fry.
This is a common problem with chicken.
In fact, consumers have voiced their concerns so fervently that the EU Commission has launched an investigation into what the maximum water content of poultry should be.
It’s suggested that the existing regulation, produced in 1993, may be ‘outdated’.
According to this up to 7% extraneous water is permissible in a whole carcass, and between 2 and 6% in cuts.
But while these are the ‘permissible’ levels, you can still get meat that is much higher than these guidelines as long as the manufacturer makes note of it on the label.
In a recent study by the Food Standards Agency, they found that 51% of poultry analysed for water content had levels of up to 16%!
As it turns out, watching the price tag when it comes to poultry isn’t always the best idea. In fact, it is a completely false economy.
What you see in the packet is not what you get on your plate.
The reason for this?
Excess water is added to the meat just before packaging to give it that all-important look and size for consumers to ‘want’ to buy the product.
What’s more, often poultry products are priced according to weight, and excess water will naturally lead to higher pricing which is particularly misleading for the consumer.
So, what to watch out for?
Well, it is in the regulations that if a poultry product does exceed the European Commission limits then it must be declared in red capital letters on the packaging – ‘Water content exceeds EC limit’.
The investigation into water content levels is due to finish by the end of 2012, but until this is complete keep an eye on those labels and make sure you’re eating what you paid for.