Are You Paying $60 A Year For Water Pumped Into Chicken?

Awhile back we posted some videos that show how butchers get away with vacuum pumping water into meat to make it weigh more. Some of them try to be “honest” about it by throwing a little soy sauce in there and calling it marinade. Whatever. We don’t pay by the pound for our marinade and neither should you.

NBC Augusta had nothing to do one Friday night so they bought a bunch of chicken and analyzed the water content. Walmart “Pilgrim’s Pride” chicken had the most water pumped into it, $0.60 worth. Other brands tested:

We paid $.46 for Perdue’s water, $.43 for Springer Mountain Farms and the best deal on chicken water was Tyson, at only $.39.

Add all four packages up and we paid $1.88 for useless chicken water.

Don’t buy chicken water. If you buy 2 packages of chicken a week for a year, that’s $60 in chicken water, according to NBC. Ew. —MEGHANN MARCO

SPECIAL REPORT: Paying For Water In Your Chicken [NBC Augusta] (Thanks, Michael!)
(Photo: noricum)

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  1. Wormfather says:

    Thats good qualitay chicken juice right there. No need to get all uppity about it.

  2. mikyrok says:

    What is the “normal” water amount that one should find in one’s chicken? I’d imagine that muscles retain some water.

  3. catskyfire says:

    Nebraska’s “Smart Chicken” uses air cooling to avoid the extra water issue. Cooling in water will keep some water in the chicken, even without injecting.

  4. Spider Jerusalem says:

    …can’t you just buy real chicken? Isn’t all that stuff processed anyway?

  5. Moosehawk says:

    Marinade in your own juices.

  6. AcidReign says:

    …..I used to buy frozen bags of Wally boneless/skinless chicken breasts, because they were about 50 cents cheaper a pound. Then I noticed that when they thawed, there was what seemed like a quart of fluid left in the bag, and I switched to Tyson.

    …..Before I learned to put refrigerator-thawing meat in a pyrex casserole dish, a walmart chicken bag leaked all down in the guts of my fridge. That was one of the nastiest smells ever when it rotted!

  7. Oh man, I love that the guy complaining’s last name is Drinkard. Perhaps I’m just easily amused.

  8. Yozzie says:

    Mmmm… chicken water…

    I too learned through trial and error to put that thawing bag in a dish of some kind, mostly because it leaked into the crisper and soaked a couple pounds’ worth of really good apples in gross chicken juices.

  9. tinychicken says:

    ewww…chicken water. What a fowl thought. heh. sorry.

  10. homerjay says:

    @spiderjerusalem: What would you consider “real chicken?”

    I sure as hell ain’t raisin’ my own!

  11. BeastMasterJ says:

    I wonder if the water is being injected into the chicken itself, or just the packaging, for moisture or quality control reasons?

    At any rate, at least it ain’t melamine.

  12. Lars says:

    May I suggest:

    Don’t eat chicken. Often they are raised under incredibly inhumane conditions.

    If you must eat chicken, buy humanely and naturally raised whole chickens. At least you avoid issues of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics (assuming that such purveyors are honest). Buying whole chickens means less processing and thus less steps to add water and potentially harmful pathogens.

  13. Canadian Impostor says:

    @Lars: Buying a whole chicken means I need to eat or throw away the crummy parts of the chicken.

  14. Lindsay Bluth?

  15. Gimpson says:

    @Jason: There is no crummy part of a chicken. Make your own chicken stock, and you’ll have stock that tastes better than canned chicken broth and has about 1/1000 the sodium.

  16. Elvisisdead says:

    Look on every single package of chicken you buy. 2% of weight is almost always saline solution. I’ve tried to buy chicken without it, but unless I’m willing to pay a ton more for organic or free range, It’s impossible.

    The key here is that the FDA allows them to do this, and it’s not illegal.

  17. Alexander says:

    @tinychicken: It’s such a simple joke as to be expected but damn if I CANNOT stop laughing.

    This a comment in general about Consumerist, as if I wasn’t jaded enough about the world, today I found out I’m even being screwed when it comes to my damn chicken. Fuck it all, I’m going to go live in a cave somewhere…

  18. glomm says:

    Maybe the water is added to preserve freshness, since we all know microbes prefer their chicken dry.

  19. Spider Jerusalem says:

    @homerjay: I mean buying whole chicken carcass. All the brands named, as far as I can tell, deal with chicken parts and mysterious bags of frozen lumps of animal flesh. Buying whole chicken carcasses is fairly cheap (about $3 an animal if you shop well), and infinitely better-tasting than anything Tyson has ever put out.

  20. robbie says:

    hot ham water

  21. cracker002 says:

    Stop being gross people. Don’t buy chicken at Walmart. That’s like Grocery Shopping 101. Better yet, don’t buy anything at Walmart.

  22. chipslave says:

    @robbie:

    Mmmm… hot dog water.

  23. darkoline says:

    Water? Try bacteria infested sludge. That water is also pretty much a soup of poop, pus, and puke too…

    Gross Chicken Water

  24. jurgis says:

    @Little Wooden Boy: That’s hot ham water… or did she do chicken too?

  25. MentalDisconnect says:

    Despite eating kosher (which I assume has much better standards and hopefully none of these problems) I’ve been so grossed out about what I hear about meat (and when eating out, I don’t worry about the meat being kosher (still no pork, though)) that I’m tempted to eat the tofu beast.

    Maybe I could switch to a different kind of meat. I would eat snakes on a plane, but that’s not kosher, either. (Couldn’t resist…)

  26. hepburn says:

    I’ve just finished working a year in the US as a chef. One thing that struck me immediately about the meat over there is ‘added water’ or ‘added solution’ and it doesn’t just affect chicken. Read the label and you will see most pork products have up to 15% ‘water’, and turkey is the same. To make things worse, often the ‘water’ is actually a brine/nitrite solution which contains huge amounts of salt, artificial flavour enhancers, meat ‘tenderizers’ and nasty preservatives.

    To reiterate the above point, although more expensive, organic or free-range meat is the best option from both a health and animal welfare point-of-view. PLus it tastes better!

  27. strathmeyer says:

    Yeah, Lars, what people need in their dies is less high protein, low fat, unprocessed sugarless chicken.

  28. strathmeyer says:

    diet

  29. maciejb says:

    Hi all, I find this a very interesting topic because I happen to work for a chicken company!

    After a chicken is slaughtered and eviscerated, it needs to be quickly cooled to a certain temperature to avoid bacteria growth, etc. While many companies are slowly moving to more modern (and expensive) air-chilling equipment, the easier/traditional method of chilling the birds is running them through a water tank for several hours. This process results in the moisture pickup you see in the meat.

    I don’t know what the market is in the U.S., but here in Canada air-chilled chicken is typically sold at a premium price, so you’re going to pay that money anyways.

    Of course, I don’t mean to say that allegations of injecting water into fresh meat for profit are false. I’m sure there are companies that do this. But it is an entirely different issue than the source of the majority of “added” water found in meat.

  30. homerjay says:

    @spiderjerusalem: Oh, I thought we WERE talking about whole chickens…

  31. reeg2 says:

    @maciejb:
    There’s a much bigger issue here than pumping water for profit. Sure, that’s part of the reason, but also it’s because we’ve bred the fat out of our animals. The water is added to even out the cooking because of the loss of the natural fat and also to give a sensation of succulence that’s lost because of the lack of fat.

    You’d be a fool to think there is not any added for profit, but I’m telling you from professional experience that if we were to completely take pinning and pumping out of the food processes now, we’d be left with some terrible quality food.

    It’s all an issue of how we’ve fundamentally missed the boat on learning to eat healthy and taken out of all of our American angst on the wrong suspects. Apparently, and I’m too young to know, but Pork used to have flavor.

  32. Lars says:

    @strathmeyer: Well, I did suggest that if you must eat meat, try to buy humanely and naturally raised.

    Moreover, nowhere did I suggest replacing chicken with Captain Cruch. Vegetarian diets can be surprisingly cheap and healthful, without the fat and sugar that can be problematic.

  33. myst says:

    @Lars:

    I’ve heard of free range chickens. I don’t know much about the actual practices or eating the actual “free range” chicken, but I have heard that they are treated well for laying eggs. Pretty much, the free range chickens are given a huge field to run around in and workers search around to pick up the eggs where ever the chickens lay them. Sounds a little healther than most chicken farming conditions. Anybody know if free range chickens are meant for eating too?

  34. EtherealStrife says:

    This is why I use the Fast Food Diet. Hah! Eat that, you water pumping bastards!

  35. WV.Hillbilly says:

    I don’t care if it’s raised in a 1 foot cage and killed with a hammer, if the meat tastes good, that’s enough for me. Hold the chicken water though.
    Same as shopping at Walmart. I don’t care who they run out of business or how they treat their employees, as long as they’re the cheapest place in town, I’ll be shopping there.

  36. ObtuseGoose says:

    If they remove the water, how am I suppose to make my chicken-flavored popsicles?

    *seriously, this is gross and a rip-off for consumers

  37. jasonq says:

    They’re doing it with beef, too. I know Target and I’m pretty sure Walmart both sell beef adulterated (that’s what I consider it) with a “solution” of up to 12%, if I remember right.

    Somewhere, Upton Sinclair is spinning in his grave.

    Jason

  38. @mikeyrock: Says on the package how much water has been added (or usually “may have been added”). Most chickens also say “No hormones!*” “*USDA regulations prevent the sale of chickens treated with hormones.”

    It is also common in turkey and ham. You can actually learn a lot about how “processed” the raw meat is by reading the different packages and comparing. (I will note, however, that the least-processed whole packaged chickens my supermarket has COMES WITH NAKED GIBLETS. I reached my hand in there and OH MY GOD I TOUCHED CHICKEN LIVER. Or something. I don’t even know. I like my giblets in PLASTIC BAGS!)

    You’ll often do better buying from a real butcher, or direct from a farm. (Some slaughter on site, some send out to a local slaughterhouse. I believe you can slaughter poultry on-site but not beef or pork or mutton. Dunno about rabbit.)

  39. flackman says:

    I am an amateur cook. Professionally, I am lead software architect for a major file sharing site. Think Alexa 100. Also, I am a software engineer for one of the few financial data providers. Just so you know I don’t have any ties to the chicken guys.

    OK, here’s the deal. White meat is low on fat. In some cases you want to BRINE your chicken meat in saline/sugar solution to “inject” moisture into it, to counteract the moisture lost in cooking it to the sick, dry leather the FDA recommends.

    Let’s talk pork. Have you heard of “enhanced pork?” It is pork that is injected with a solution of water, table salt, and sodium phosphate. This is because pork has become increasingly lean in the last few decades. When cooking this lean pork to 1960 standards when Trichinosis was prevalent, one wonders if any human can actually produce enough saliva to counteract this glandular assault.

    I rather dislike the taste of enhanced pork. I brine my own. This takes me hours. I don’t have hours, but I do it anyway.

    Shall we talk about the difference between “city” and “country” ham?

    “city” ham is brined before you eat it. This makes it seem like it has more juice. It tastes better. Want to buy a country ham and brine it yourself for a day? I suggest it, it will taste better. Does joe six-pack have the common sense or time to do so?

    End game: $60 a year for juicier chicken? Sign me up. Maybe you have the time to brine your ONE HUNDRED FOUR packages of chicken a year, I don’t…

    Although, I certainly don’t buy this much chicken. Always buy local. Always buy natural. If you don’t have the time, well… make do with what you can. There is room in this world for enhanced chicken.

  40. AcidReign says:

    …..God, gibblets! Mmmm. We didn’t even know what giblets were, till we started paying attention to what my grandmother cooked. She got her meats from the local farmer’s market, which meant “whole chickens” that were probably killed on site.

    …..I liked every bit of them, even the chewy gizzard. I never admitted it, but I liked the livers best. See, if you liked the liver, you lost dibs on the heart, which was the juiciest giblet! My grandmother just boiled these things in salt-water, and handed them out like party favors when we visited on Friday afternoon. Those, and a bottle of pop were a great way to ensure that there was no way you were finishing dinner that night…

    …..My little brother once swindled me out of both the heart and the liver, but couldn’t finish them due to the Popsicle truck coming around and him blowing his allowance on a bomb pop. Still, he would not relinquish his gibblets! My mother forbade the nasty things in our house, so my brother stashed them in the cardboard car glove box, and we promptly forgot all about them…

    …..The next progression of this story was corpse -like smell that inhabited our ’68 impala over the next few days. We had to hold our noses and open all windows in order to drive anywhere. My father tore the air-conditioning ducts apart, and found nothing. The smell eventually died down, and everyone forgot…

    …..Then, when the first frost happened in October (yes, we really used to get frost before Thanksgiving!), the first search of the glove box for the ice-scraper revealed the Saran wrapped, petrified bird-guts. Yeah, baby, yeah!

    …..Now, you’re lucky if you get a fat-laden neckbone in a disintegrating paper bag in those store-birds.

  41. Spider Jerusalem says:

    …giblets in a bag? You mean there are companies SO intent on kissing consumer butt that they take the giblets out FOR you, stuff them in a bag, and put them back in the body cavity? And you prefer this?

    Gah. I mean, in Ireland, they barely bother to cut the feet off, and there’s pinfeathers all over the darn thing.

  42. AcidReign says:

    …..No, giblets should not really come in a bag. Stuffed back into the bird rib-cage, sure. The paper bag is not necessary. You’ve got the chicken-water all over your hands, anyway, if you handle the bird. I miss giblets. Pure meat, no bone. Well, except for the neck-bone.

    …..These days, they charge “more than ground chuck” money for a pack of chicken livers. What’s up with that? Or does the cat/dog food demand outstrip our human cheap meat fixation?

  43. apstaats says:

    @darkoline:

    Disturbingly, not many people seem to care about this. I read this yesterday, and it just added fuel to my vegetarian fire…

  44. Cap'n Jack says:

    @apstaats: Fine. Don’t eat it. Nature meant for us to be meat-eaters. But if you don’t want to eat it, the least you can do is not ruin it for the rest of us who do.

  45. @spiderjerusalem: “You mean there are companies SO intent on kissing consumer butt that they take the giblets out FOR you, stuff them in a bag, and put them back in the body cavity? And you prefer this?”

    Vastly.

    But then, I only learned to cook after I turned 25, so I’m still a little grossed out by ground beef.

  46. Sherryness says:

    I heard a story on the news once about how some stores were selling the meat in a marinade to disguise meat that was either bad or on the verge of going bad. I’ve never bought pre-marinated meat again! Also, you never know what the marinade contains – my guess is lot’s of sodium and/or MSG and/or high fructose corn syrup.

    That was probably also the point when I decided to stop putting food into my body that I got from the lowest bidder. I decided that paying a little more for better quality was a really responsible decision when it comes to taking care of my body.

    BTW, LOL at “naked giblets” – that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard since that Butterball commercial where the woman is calling their help line, “I put my hand in the WHAT and take out the WHAT-WHAT?”

  47. maciejb says:

    @reeg2:

    One thing I really need to point out is that many practices are very different between U.S. and Canadian industries. I don’t know the extent of these differences as they apply to this issue, but just to clarify to everyone that what I say is about Canada and not necessarily anywhere else.

    I can’t speak much for the breeding/fat/succulence part because I’m not involved in that side of the business. However, I can positively guarantee you there is no injecting of any sort done on our fresh products. The only such machine in the company is used to prep meat for use in deli roasts. There is one exception to that and that is the cheaper/generic IQF (individually quick frozen) boneless skinless breasts. Yes, that is why they look so plump when you take them out of the freezer and shrivel up to half their size on the BBQ.

    About 15% of our chicken is water chilled and 85% is air-chilled, so there is no moisture pickup in most of it. Although we make products for other companies and custom brands, our primary focus is on our own brand, and being recognized as a quality product is one of our top mandates. You would be hard pressed to find a drip of water in a majority of it.

    Finally, because several people alluded to these various issues (again, this may not apply to the US):
    - chickens raised for meat are not grown in cages anywhere in Canada. Large-scale farms are generally large open barns.
    - melamine never affected any Canadian chickens because they don’t put wheat gluten in chicken feed up here to begin with
    - the appearance and taste of chicken meat varies significantly by what it’s fed. While the protein content of feed is the same across the board, Western Canadian chickens are fed a lot more grain and have whiter meat, U.S. chickens tend to be largely corn fed, and have more yellowish meat. Eastern Canada is somewhere in between. I don’t really know the taste difference but I’m told it’s significant.
    - there are no hormones given to chickens ever
    - to control temperature (it gets freaking cold up here) and avoid cross contamination (e.g. another species of bird flying in and spreading H5N1 bird flu), mass produced chickens are raised in barns
    - pesticides are not a problem because the chickens don’t have any contact with the outside world.
    - there are no animal by-products in chicken feed
    - yes, antibiotics are given to birds in very small quantities (larger if there are problems). The antibiotics are withdrawn at least 72 hours prior to slaughter to avoid them ending up in human food.
    - giblets: if you’re gonna get any giblets at all, they’re going to come out first anyways. You might want hearts, livers and gizzards in there, but you don’t want lungs, kidneys and intestines. We don’t tend to sell chickens with gibs, but for turkeys, putting them in a bag before stuffing them back in the bird makes sense because you don’t want three little loose pieces flying around inside the cavity making a mess or falling out before packoff.

    Hmm.. ok.. back to work for me.

    p.s. I grew up in Poland, where I still remember pork having taste :)

  48. maciejb says:

    Oh yeah, I was also gonna say why are gibs so expensive. At least in my area.. labour is expensive and hard to find (if you’re looking for a labour job, let me know ;)), and salvaging gibs is labour intensive. So if the market is bad and you can’t sell giblets at a profit, it’s just not worth the labour, packaging and shipping costs. It’s simply easier to just throw it out.

  49. kimsama says:

    This is the crappy thing about cheap food. People only want to spend like $1/lb on chicken, even though that’s ridiculous, so food manufacturers try to cut prices by giving you non-food crap. At least it’s not poisonous non-food crap, but it’s still junk you didn’t think you were paying for.

    I doubt anyone here would cut their gasoline with urine or rainwater just so they could get more without paying more. But that’s basically what you get when you try to buy the world’s cheapest food — adulterated stuff that’s only cheap because it lacks quality. If you wouldn’t put adulterated gas in your car, why would you put junked up food in your body?

    I would much prefer, as some people have suggested, to buy from a farm and pay a higher price for an actual chicken, than to pay a shady low price for a chicken + ? shady additives.

  50. @Shadgenki: darkoline is the one who posted the link.

    Also, I’m sure some people would rather know what’s up (though that article is four years old).

    I would much prefer, as some people have suggested, to buy from a farm and pay a higher price for an actual chicken

    @kimsama: I would too though I can’t actually get to a farm. The problem is that most people just don’t know. However, since food = poison now it probably doesn’t even matter anymore.

  51. urabl says:

    If any of you out there buy your supermarket’s store brand of chicken, check the label carefully. I’m almost positive the last package of chicken I bought from Stop & Shop was actually Pilgrim’s Pride. So just keep in mind that it takes more than not shopping at Walmart to avoid watery chicken.

  52. kimsama says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Check around for local farm buyer’s clubs. If you live near a city or population hub, there’s likely quite a few. Farmers will take your orders (usually by email about a week in advance) and then load everyone’s stuff on a truck and drop it off someplace convenient (usually near a public transport hub), where you bring a copy of your order and pick it up.

    That’s the only way I can get local farmed goods without driving for 2 hours one way to the closest farm. And the nice thing is, the farm is a grass-based free-range farm, so I know there’s no scary Chinese feed in there. And the prices are only a little above normal grocery prices (about $1 more a pound for chicken, $2 more a lb for beef, 50 cents more for a dozen eggs…).

    Hope that helps!

  53. oldhat says:

    1) Paying a little more for meat is okay…you ought to be eating less of it anyway.

    2) Paying more for an item is not a guarantee that it’s actually better. So people get consumer fatigue and just buy the crap since they are tired of getting burned. Get in and get out.

    3) Ugh, industrialized meat…who among you can visit a slaughterhouse and go home ready for hamburgers? Compared to a veggie packing plant?

    4) Don’t get all neurotic and obsessive about your food, but come on folks, have some fucking standards!

    5) Dammit, why do i always have to curse?!? Because I love you guys!

  54. oldhat says:

    3a) Because they won’t let you see what happens in there, won’t let the public know. And they staff mostly illegal workers who won’t blow the whistle. Argh, the US meat industry is … hard to digest.

    People just don’t know, and don’t want to know. And we wonder why we all dying of cancer and shit.

  55. fatal616 says:

    Who in their right mind still pays for rotting corpses? Clearly they should spray it with more viruses to kill the viruses, food additives, and pump it with blood/more feces instead.

  56. fatal616 says:

    Who in their right mind still pays for rotting corpses? Clearly they should spray it with more viruses to kill the viruses, food additives, and pump it with blood/more feces instead.


  57. Anonymous says:

    This is why the company I work for Air Chills the birds. No retained water, just the chicken!!! And I agree, most consumers don’t read the fine print. A pound of water is a lot cheaper for the processor than a pound of meat.