“Enhanced”

At the Virginia Biological Farmer’s Conference I sat in on a fascinating talk by Ben Coleman of Mountain Run Farm, discussing how they raise and sell their grass-fed beef.  He mentioned how often water is injected into industrial beef to make it weigh more. That surprised me.  I knew it is a common practice with chicken, but I didn’t know about beef.

Doing a little research I discovered that the worst offender is industrial pork.  About 90% of the pork sold in supermarkets has had saline solution injected into it.  Check the packaging the next time you’re in a grocery store.  If it says the meat is “enhanced,” then it has saltwater brine in it.  The USDA permits up the injection of up to 12% volume saline solution in meat and allows the industry to use the euphemism “enhanced” to describe the practice.

I blogged about it a couple of years ago (HERE), saying:

If you buy meat that is labelled “enhanced with broth,” what that actually means is that the meat has been injected with saline solution to increase its weight and make it look plumper.  This is very common with chicken.  The label is intended to make you think you’re getting a superior product.  Instead, you’re getting ripped off.

How much water and saline solution are you paying for when you buy meat?

Meat purchased from actual farms (such as our pork) hasn’t been injected with saline solution.  Another thing to think about when comparing prices of real meat and factory meat.

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8 comments on ““Enhanced”

  1. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, just another reason for me to find a local organic grower to buy meat from. I’m there are some here fairly close but I just haven’t put in the time to find them. Paying meat prices for salt water burns me up. I would imagine hams are the biggest target for injections. Thanks for always keeping us informed about what goes on in the food chain.

    Have a great pre Spring day. I hope storm PAX didn’t mess with you too much.

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    • Bill says:

      A good place to find them is localharvest.org. Just enter your zip code and it should pull up a list of local farms with descriptions of their practices.

      The snow is starting to melt now. It is rapidly being replaced with mud.

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  2. shoreacres says:

    Recently, I needed some chicken breasts for a dinner casserole. I was in Target, so I looked there and found that they’re now stocking “Bare” Chicken. It looked great, and it tasted fine. There wasn’t any shrinkage that I could see.

    I went online and checked out their site. Here’s the page that gives the scoop on what their chicken does and doesn’t contain. Since it didn’t include anything about water, I went looking farther and found this paragraph in their FAQ:

    ” Q. Does Just BARE chicken contain any added ingredients? [-]
    No. Just BARE chicken does not contain added solution or ingredients of any type including salt, water, carrageenan (seaweed extract) or other binding agents, or preservatives. It’s 100% all natural chicken and nothing else. While enhanced chicken can contain up to 330 milligrams of sodium per serving, all Just BARE all natural chicken contains 75 milligrams per serving. ”

    I’m going to explore this a little more, but if their claims are accurate, it’s a good alternative to the organic chicken available here, which is running $10 per butterflied breast. The BARE was $7 for four breast halves – quite a difference, particularly in winter, when my cash flow doesn’t allow for any extras in the budget.

    As for pork, ham or bacon – I couldn’t even tell you the last time I purchased any of that in the grocery store. I use so little bacon that I always purchase that from the folks selling pastured pork. There’s just no comparison.

    Oh – and this isn’t quite on topic, but it’s related. I explored orange juices after our recent conversation about processed foods. First I looked at my bottle of Simply Orange in the fridge. In very tiny, nearly invisible letters, on the neck of the bottle and NOT on the label, it said, “Juice sources: Mexico, Brazil.” So, the next time I was at the store, I looked at Florida’s Natural. All USA, but pasturized.

    So I bought some oranges, and dug my old glass juicer out of its hidey hole. I hand-squeezed a cup of orange juice and drank it. Remember when you said the best way to get people to change their eating habits is to let them taste what real food is? Uh-huh.

    Yesterday, my electric juicer ($24.95 at Amazon) arrived. Last night I squeezed up a glass. Best purchase I’ve made in quite some time 😉

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    • Bill says:

      This comment had me smiling all the way through. I’m pleased to know that there in “unenhanced” chicken available in the stores. That means there is a market for it and that is a positive sign.

      In my lawyering days one of my clients was a Brazilian OJ company. I spent a lot of time in Brazil and learned a lot about OJ. Originally OJ was frozen and concentrated. But at some point the American market preferred NFC (“not from concentrate”). I think thawing the juice and adding water was just too much trouble. So the Brazilian companies spent many millions of dollars to buy tankers and stateside tank farms to haul water from Brazil.

      Interestingly in my time in Brazil the folks there always squeezed fresh OJ in the mornings. That’s the way orange juice is supposed to taste. 🙂

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  3. EllaDee says:

    Caveat emptor… shouldn’t have to be our catchphrase. I simply assume these days if I haven’t prepared the food myself or had sufficient conversation with the grower/stall holder/shop keeper, its provenance is uncertain. Unfortunately due to work-life balance and city life infrastructure I have to accept this situation to a certain extent but it’s to the least extent I can manage, and I object to the liberties that are taken because many of us are a captive and credulous audience.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It’s true Ella. The only way to be confident about the quality of food is to grow it yourself or get it from farmers you know and trust. That isn’t possible for everyone, unfortunately, but it should be.

      Like

  4. Lynda says:

    Bill, you’ve made me happy all over again that I raise my own poultry. Working on goats and beef next. And your post raises a question I have had for some time:

    Why does the lamb I buy often taste salty?

    I had attributed it to just being a characteristic of lamb meat, that is until I got some that I needed to add salt. (light bulb moment) I will be reading those labels very closely now.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Hey Lynda. The last time I was in a grocery store I looked at the meat packaging and was astounded at how much “solution” had been added to most of the meat. And check out the ingredient list. The packages I saw included MSG and corn starch, for example. In meat. Smh. I took pictures and may include them in a future post.

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