The SECRET the chicken industry doesn't want YOU to know...(and why shopping with us is always a safe bet)

The SECRET the chicken industry doesn't want YOU to know...(and why shopping with us is always a safe bet)


Have you ever wondered if there's more to chicken than just meets the eye?


We're talking specifically about chicken breasts...

There's been rumors floating around for years about the way in which meat can be "altered" in the mysterious process from farm to fork. Red meat, for instance, has had a lot of fingers pointed in the American market for hormonal treatments deemed over the top, however it's main concern is with climate change (perhaps a topic for another post). The most common knowledge of this issue, in particular with those who are in the fitness industry, for food quality seems to be around chicken. Ask any gym buff about "supermarket chicken" and the words "water injected" are likely to come up. If so, odds are they're one of our customers. We get quizzed on our chicken daily by a vast array of new customers with different goals and quite often the comment about how our chicken isn't packed in the same "bulk" sizes as some retailers, or how the prices are just completely different and don't move and why. Let's clear it all up in black and white so you can arm yourself with bulletproof knowledge in breasts (chicken that is, steady yourself chaps).

Part One | "Why sell chicken, when you can sell water!" 

A marketing slogan from one of the food machinery expos of old when machines such as VNI's (vertical needle injection) started rearing their ugly heads. The principle was that the chicken just needed to weigh more and cost less through means of added water. The good news is that nowadays, food manufacturers need to declare this on their packaging, which you quite regularly see in frozen chicken products or processed products. The bad news is 1.it's still going on and 2.that's not all we're up against. There is a number of ways water is "added" to chicken, however, there are a couple of sneaky ways that this is worked in where you might not expect it (and might now have to declare it) which leads us to...

Part Two | "Chill out with a soak in the tub."

 

It may not have ever occured to most of us that chicken isn't naturally cold when slaughtered and butchered. It's not a thought you have over dinner, however there are in fact a number of ways too cool a chicken breast ready for packing and keeping in a refrigerated storage place. More importantly that choice can have a number of consequences for the quality and lifespan of the final product. It boils down to two options:

  1. Wet chilled
  2. Dry chilled

I imagine you can picture the basics of each process, but what may shock you is which is commonly favoured among the "better value" chicken fillets. Dry chilled or even dry fozen produce tends to be something to be proud of when selling poultry. It doesn't just apply to chicken, turkey is a major player in this game. If you hear dry frozen (as you often do when shopping with us a Christmas), chances are there has been some extra thought gone into the little details of sourcing your meat from your butcher. After butchery, to chill the meat there needs to be an end to end spotless and hygienic transport and cooling of the chicken to prevent any form of contamination from contact with surfaces to simply the air not being polluted with chemicals or other residue when chilling. The quicker the chill, the better it is for your meat. This is all a lot of work and a lot of investment from wholesale production meaning that there is an impact on production costs. In basic terms, you get what you pay for with production. Now as a nation we consume A LOT of chicken. More so than our own country can even provide (another post on this soon). When that means we have a choice of where to import chicken from, we want the same (or even better) quality assurance standards we set on our own soil. Enter the opportunity for some serious price wars for our trade, sometimes with not the greatest of suppliers either... We're not going to be naming names here but let's just say Country A and Country B have some very different ideas when it comes to welfare and production quality. This comes into play when we hear about practices such as wet chilling poultry. 

Ever top up your glass of ribena with hose water? Of course not, that would be absurd! Ever wash your chicken fillets in the tap? Id advise against it (nothing like potential for salmonella spraying up the walls!), there's just no need to. How about when you want to keep your steak cool? Why not run it under a cold tap for a few minutes. Yes I can see your eyebrows crunching up looking at the screen now, but this is what you're paying for when you buy "bulk" / "budget" / "economy" chicken and it causes some serious problems down the line when it gets to your fridge door. If you think theyre dousing your precious fillets with Evian mountain mineral water, think again. The bacteria present in the water is a real threat to the integrity of your fillets, which in turn causes what can only be described as "slime" building up on them later. If you've ever dipped your toes in the 5kg tubs for less than £20 market, chances are you've witnessed a few things; fillets going off well before their date, slimy watery texture, poor eating quality and general dryness. Now there may be nothing wrong with the chicken, but that would be akin to saying there's nothing wrong with having a little taste of your dog's tinned dinner. Sure it won't hurt you, but is it really doing anything for you. When the bacteria get to work breaking down the chicken you've just bagged at a bargain price (hurting the retailers working to promote quality produce in the process), they literally start dissolving it into a slimy substance and cause it to rot at an exceptionally fast rate that no atmospheric packing can prevent. Hence why they *should* last until the shelf date, but unpredictably last anywhere close to it rather than on the point. They've also spent a good portion of their life swilling in water right from the start and so have absorbed a good portion of it without the need for it being declared as "added". The result: chicken that shrinks, stinks, dries up and eats like a leather shoe and has little to none of the original nutritional value harvested at slaughter. Welcome to the world of budget wet chilling.

My goodness, how do we avoid this!

Since you're reading this, we're going to assume you dont really want anything to do with this for you or your family. Well there's a simple way to stop it. Shop smart and ask the right questions.
Our chicken is BRC AA accreditted and holds welfare in the highest possible regards for both production and consumer satisfaction. Of course, wet chilling is off the menu and we only use select suppliers we've worked with for years and can guarantee the best quality possible for all our customers. Sure, you'll see some differences straight away in prices and pack sizes, because we pioneered some of them ourselves in the industry. The oversized bulk buys are a cheap trick where only one person wins (and hint it's not you) so we simply steer clear of anything to do with it. Shop with us and you've already made the smart, safe and cost effective choice that is the best possible one for you and your family. However if you can't get to our shops, or are simply intrigued as to how deep the rabbit hole goes, ask around some of these killer key questions:

  1. Where is it from? (Don't always assume home is where the heart is, imported produce can be of some seriously stellar quality, but steer clear of some in particular, Polish can often be a minefield.)
  2. Is it acreditted? (Often this step can be an instant stumbling block for a lot of suppliers as they haven't even looked into it before.)
  3. What's the traceability like? (Look for labelling, does it have their brand on it despite not having a link to their own farm? Does it have all the information regarding batch, slaughter and factory...)
  4. What' the welfare of the product? (Welfare standards are something that ought to be discussed more. Barbaric practices do exist and they're not good for anyone, ask what kind of operation they buy from.)
  5. How was the chicken chilled? (You're armed to the gills with information on this now, so have at it and prepare for some surprising results!)