Enhanced Chicken, Pork and Beef, Oh My!
By Daniel and Mick Rosacci
Reviewing the meat case of a local supermarket, I noted tiny print (in about a #3 font) on a pre-packaged steak that said…”TENDERNESS & JUICINESS IMPROVED WITH UP TO 12% OF A PATENTED SOLUTION”. I couldn't resist, I just had to taste it, so I took it home. I wasn't surprised to find it tasted thin, watery, and salty. Well hidden on the back panel, I found their patented solution…”Beef Broth, Potassium Lactate, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Sodium Diacetate, Flavorings, and Sprayed with a solution of Water & Ascorbic Acid to maintain color.”
Further packages on my shopping trip revealed pork, chicken and turkey with 15% added ingredients, ham with 23%, and lunch meat with 28% water, brine & fillers added. As appalling as this may sound the pork & poultry industries have been doing this for years, so I was not surprised to see it make its way to beef…disgusted yes, but not surprised. Sadly, up to 70% of all pork and poultry sold in America is ‘ENHANCED’ (Brined with these or similar chemicals, salt & water to make lower quality meat more tender, juicy and tasty). Three major grocery stores in the Denver area sell ONLY “Enhanced Pork” to an unsuspecting public.
Why Enhanced Meats?
By adding chemical flavorings, processors can increase the flavor and juiciness of their product, and at the same time increase the weight. Increasing weight makes sense, they can either increase profits, or lower their price to be more compeditive while maintaining profits. Why add flavor? I see two possible reasons: 1) To improve the flavor of a lower quality product. 2) To take advantage of chemical flavoring agents to create a product that consumers whom are used to processed foods will like.
In the Case of Pork and Poultry
Approximately 70% of the pork and poultry in the US is enhanced. Enhanced meats are used almost exclusively in fast foods, in much of restaurant industry, and in most pork and poultry you find in grocery stores and food clubs.
The Fleecing of Consumers
By using fancy brand names, pretty packaging, and a guarantee of tenderness, flavor and juiciness; bulk producers attempt to portray an impression of quality. And by injecting or vacuum marinating (a process where phosphates, water and flavorings are drawn into meats in an airless environment), lower quality meats are made to be juicier, more tender, more flavorful, and more attractive in the package.
How To Choose Great Meats
The quality of meats varies dramatically, but often marketing programs and techniques confuse customers as to how to identify quality. Great meats are a product of great genetics and breeding, high quality feed and clean water, great living conditions, and quality animal husbandry by responsible farmers - they have nothing to do with a marketing plan. A savvy consumer must learn to look past the fancy marketing and industry tricks, and choose food for it's taste, quality, and healthfulness. This does take some learning.
It saddens me to say the days of 'The Old Fashioned Butcher' are almost gone, there are but a handful of us left in Colorado. At Tony's, we're been keeping the craft alive since 1978, and we're dedicated to continue bringing you the finest quality meats possible - without gimmicks, misleading marketing or shortcuts.