"Injected Pork Water" Is Completely Out Of Control At Kroger

“At our local supermarket chain (Kroger), it is now impossible to buy any fresh pork product (except sausage and bacon, but what’s in them is a whole other story) that has not been “enhanced” by the injection of “up to 15%” of some kind of saltwater solution. Pork chops, pork loin, everything. And now chicken is getting this way, too – it is getting harder and harder to find any fresh chicken that has not been injected with “up to 15% chicken broth.” Even bone-in legs and thighs, now. When did this happen?

Anyway, not only does this extra water screw up a lot of recipes (the meat won’t brown right, and roasted chickens end up soggy), it means 15% of the price of grocery store pork and chicken I am actually paying for water! (Mmmm, sizzling, juicy water.) Working this into the equation, the price per pound of actual meat for unadulterated pork and chicken at the natural foods co-op is not as high as it might seem.

Jenni

It’s probably very un-consumeristy of us, but we have to admit to not noticing how much water has been injected into our pork or chicken—or even if unsoaked pork is still available at the local grocery store.

We did post a news story from NBC Augusta in which they squeezed a bunch of chicken and then figured out how much your average consumer was paying for “chicken water” each year. Guess how much it was? Did you guess? Ok, fine we’ll tell you.

$60 a year. In chicken water. Yuck.

PREVIOUSLY: Are You Paying $60 A Year For Water Pumped Into Chicken?
(Photo:eggrollstan)

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  1. Canadian Impostor says:

    I bought a roasting chicken from Whole Foods because I was there and didn’t want to go to the regular grocery store to save $3.

    They tucked the wings behind its back, tied the legs up, I didn’t have to do any prep at all. Forget the regular grocery store’s chicken water the time I saved prepping a dead bird was worth $3 to me.

  2. HRHKingFriday says:

    I remember when Walmart started doing this years and years ago. So we stopped buying our meat there. Now where the heck can we get regular meat?

  3. SOhp101 says:

    They do this because most people don’t know how that they should brine chicken/pork before cooking, or they don’t have the time to do it. Brined chicken/pork is much juicier, and probably sells better, so this is the result.

  4. econobiker says:

    Weight, baby, weight… it is all about the weight.

  5. cabooglio says:

    I recently completed a slow and steady conversion to shopping ONLY at Whole Foods. I used to think it was ridiculous, but now I can’t imagine going back to a “regular” store. It’s worth the extra expense to me to know that my meat is unadulterated (that’s what she said), and that there isn’t a single molecule of trans fat in the entire store.

    … also, I’ve been doing all of my holiday baking with whole wheat flour with 100% success rate. Why, exactly, does white flour exist?

  6. ConRoo says:

    @SOhp101:
    Yeah right … And I’ve got some nice land in Florida that I want to sell you! Ha!

  7. Womblebug says:

    @SOhp101: I’ve eaten meat that I’ve brined myself, and I’ve eaten “enhanced” meat. There is no comparison. “Enhanced” meat is spongy and often doesn’t taste right.

    This was the final straw that made me completely stop shopping at Kroger. The stores are dirty, the help is unhelpful, and the “deals” are really not very good, even their loss leaders. Their store brands are pushed so hard as to eliminate much of the choice in the store (and I generally like and buy store brands, but if I don’t like it, I want an option). At the Kroger closest to me, the last time I went there I used the restroom, the same restroom the employees use. No soap. No paper towels.

    Can’t stand Kroger.

  8. PAConsumerist says:

    Never mind this story. The real story is that someone with a camera caught one of “The Hair Bears” shopping at a supermarket! This is a bigger find than Sasquatch!

  9. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @HRHKingFriday:

    We get our meat at a butcher’s shop. One of the advantages of living in a smaller town I guess.

  10. lincolnparadox says:

    @SOhp101: If I want juicy chicken, I’ll baste. If I want juicy pork, I’ll soak in a brine.

    My baste, will cost me about $0.40/pound.

    My brine, will cost me about $0.25/pound.

    My chicken and pork are between $1.99 and $3.99/pound.

    See the difference?

  11. zentec says:

    @Jaysyn:

    Exactly! There’s a place in Monroe, MI called Danny’s. No nonsense, just good chicken and beef and the prices are not really more expensive than the chains like Kroger.

    At what point does the nonsense these companies pull in the name of profit become fraud?

  12. SOhp101 says:

    @lincolnparadox: Brining the meat yourself will obviously create better results, but most people aren’t willing to do this work themselves. I like to be more traditional and take preparing meat into my own hands.

    BTW, the difference is called profit, and it’s something that farmers/distributors love.

  13. girly says:

    I got a complementary issue of Cook’s Illustrated a few months ago, and it had a section about various meats.

    It said that pork is leaner than it was 20 years ago (done in an effort to keep people from getting too much fat in their diets, if I recall correctly) and that because of that, most pork is ‘enhanced’ so it won’t be dry and tough when you cook it. But it has affected the taste.

    Apparently, though, they did a taste test and most everybody is used to the taste of ‘enhanced’ pork now.

  14. bohemian says:

    Years ago this would have been considered fraud and either the weights and measures dept. or the consumer protection office would have gone after a store doing this.

    I suppose because they put it in tiny little print on the package they can get away with it.

    Walmart started injecting water into their beef years ago, about the same time we quit shopping there. Water injected meat is nasty.

  15. Canadian Impostor says:

    @SOhp101: Stores aren’t doing this to “brine” meat, they’re doing it because water is heavy and cheap, and they get away with it.

  16. vanilla-fro says:

    @paconsumerist: Help! Help!

    Anyway chicken and pork water are the dumps. I don’t want water in my meat. I want the natural juices that flesh comes with. If it comes out a bit dry, I’ll put BBQ sauce on it. What do you think that stuff is for anyway?

  17. Canadian Impostor says:

    @girly: Pigs were bred to be leaner when mechanical de-feathering machines made chicken cheaper. Chicken is leaner, and marketed itself as a healthier option, so pig farmers had to fight back and lean out their hogs.

  18. SOhp101 says:

    @Canadian Impostor: They do this because people who don’t prepare/cook chicken properly think it tastes better while they make extra profit at the same time. Even companies try to hit two birds with one stone.

    @vanilla-fro: Sorry to disappoint you, but most BBQ sauces out there are just mainly high fructose corn syrup–you’ll probably never find that in true BBQ anyway. The FDA has regulations as to how the package must be labeled that distinguish how much water is added to the product i.e. ham, ham in natural juices, ham with water added, ham and water product.

  19. ancientsociety says:

    *ahem* Try to buy from smaller producers and certain butchers, they usually don’t mess with their meat. (that didn’t sound right)
    [www.localharvest.org]

    @cabooglio: White flour exists for those of us with IBS and gluten problems. I like whole wheat flour but can’t eat too much.

  20. Hawkins says:

    This is reason #27 why you should try to find locally-produced meat and vegetables. Never mind organic; think LOCAL. Your local butcher shop is far less likely to pull shit like this.

  21. Falconfire says:

    @SOhp101: has absolutely nothing to do with brining and all to do with making the meat heavier and thus cost more.

    Its a 21st century version of the finger on the scale trick.

  22. smw9711 says:

    Try Foster Farms brands. Their chickens are free from fillers.

  23. ironchef says:

    true brining requires soaking…which butchers don’t do.

    to me, they are just padding the scales with salt water.

  24. SOhp101 says:

    First people get all up in arms when the government tries to ‘restrict’ freedom of purchase, then they get mad when companies do things like this.

    THEY TELL YOU ON THE PACKAGE, PEOPLE. That’s what the ‘with natural juices’ or ‘with added water’ means. Try reading what you’re purchasing instead of whining about padding scales or unnecessary added weight.

  25. Canadian Impostor says:

    @ancientsociety: Thanks for that link, I now have a list of places to check out this weekend.

  26. Crymson_77 says:

    @SOhp101: What people are really complaining about is simple…why are they padding the meat when it shouldn’t be…

    This may have something to do with the rash of recalls on meat there have been lately…anyone think of that?

  27. girly says:

    @Crymson_77: possibly, in that the more you mess with the meat, the more opportunities to introduce contaminants

  28. Fuzz says:

    Just what we need . . more sodium in our diets. . bla!

  29. Rufdawg says:

    @cabooglio: Whole wheat flour is impracticable for long term storage, i.e. it will go rancid without refrigeration. Before refrigeration, milled wheat flour and rice were a necessities during warm weather.

  30. girly says:

    @Fuzz: i agree, the fat is probably not as bad for you

  31. dlab says:

    @SOhp101:

    I’d be ecstatic if the government took water-added meats off the market. Injecting with water IS NOT the same as proper brining, which a) requires soaking, not injecting and b) carries flavorful spices and ingredients rather than just water. Cooking chicken or pork DO NOT require brining if you have any actual cooking skills. And yes, it exactly equivalent to padding the scales. Ripping people off is still ripping people off, even if you tell them… now get back to your job at the Kroger meat counter.

    But yeah, this is pretty disgusting. Yet another reason to buy organic/local. FYI, oftentimes if you take the time to ask you will find that local IS organic. It costs a lot of money to buy the “organic” label.

  32. velvetjones says:

    @Hawkins: Precisely. When you’re shopping look for “air chilled” chicken which means it was, um, air chilled, not run through a germy ice bath to cool it down. Keep in mind that chicken water is salmonella water.

  33. badgerette says:

    While I loved how convenient it is to buy a bag of frozen chicken breasts at Costco, I was really irritated by the fact, that when I rinsed them this weird brothy slime that coated the breast came off. Not just Costco, but Albertson’s, Wal-Mart – all their frozen bagged breasts are like this, and the packaging discloses that they are enhanced by a “solution”. So I started going to a local butcher shop & buying fresh meat. Sure, I have to bag it into individual portions myself, but the price I’m paying per pound is less, (.30 less per lb than the Wal-Mart bag of frozen boneless skinless breasts) and I’m actually paying for MEAT. It tastes better, is better quality, & I’m the one handling it.

  34. Jacquilynne says:

    I had an interesting conversation with a butcher about the lack of air chilled chicken available in the US and how it’s very expensive. In Canada, it’s pretty much coming to be the norm. You can buy water chilled, but air chilled is more common, and is the branded stuff. It is more expensive per pound, but I once cooked half water chilled and half air chilled chicken thighs because they were what I had on hand, and the difference in shrinkage was amazing. The side of the pan I filled with water chilled ones was half empty by the time they were done baking, while the side filled with air chilled was still almost fully covered.

  35. trillium says:

    fyi – buy local! I try and get as much meat as possible from local butchers at the nearby farmers market. What I can’t get there I am lucky enough to have a father who butchers (thanks for the 1/2 hog for Christmas, dad!).

  36. comopuedeser says:

    There is something to be said for living on a farm and eating fresh meat even if that lifestyle isn’t typically the easiest. Sure beats eating processed everything we find at the grocery stores.

  37. swalve says:

    @bohemian: They do it with beef??

    @SOhp101: Yes, exactly. Read the labels and buy what you want.

  38. Major-General says:

    @ancientsociety: Try spelt.

  39. hi says:

    @Swalve & SOhp101

    They said in the article:

    At our local supermarket chain (Kroger), it is now impossible to buy any fresh pork product (except sausage and bacon, but what’s in them is a whole other story) that has not been “enhanced” by the injection of “up to 15%” of some kind of saltwater solution.

    How is reading the labels going to help when all the labels say “enhanced”? If they’re all injected then how can you buy what you want? I’m pretty sure when giving the choice people will not want injected salt water in their chicken to add weight to the scales.

    Its an obvious trick to deceive the consumer whom we know don’t always read the labels but does that make it right?

  40. ancientsociety says:

    @Major-General: Thanks. I have already though and I was…underwhelmed by the taste.

  41. TechnoDestructo says:

    Wouldn’t this make it harder to cook the meat so that it isn’t all stringy with loose fibers?

    And how does this affect marinades?

  42. dlab says:

    @TechnoDestructo:
    Stringy meat usually happens when you slow-cook something for a long time, so no.

    Quick marinades will have a harder time penetrating the meat — the excess water will tend to seep out.

  43. XianZomby says:

    Sure .. it’s all about the weight. And exactly what should chicken “cost” per pound? Does anybody have any idea what chicken “costs?” It’s what the market will bear, that’s what it costs.

    This is like finding out that the butcher has his finger on the scale when he weighs your ham. Busted! Except then you find out that every butcher in the United States puts their finger on the scale, adds the same amount of extra weight every time, and has been doing it for the last 25 years. Then it really becomes conceptually something new. Like changed reality. Like, um, you’re happy making 60K a year, and you’re happy that way for years, until you find out that your coworker makes 62K. Then you feel screwed for some reason.

    The chicken water is not bad or good for you. But it may make the meat taste better. And the meat company isn’t cheating you on your meat purchase by putting brine in the meat, because your concept of fair price for meat has been based on their calculations since you were old enough to care.

  44. swalve says:

    @hi: It’s not a trick if it’s printed on the label. Did they contact the manager and ask him why? Did they try Safeway? There are better ways of solving problems than stridently complaining on the internet.

  45. themediatrix says:

    The bigger question here: WHY is anyone buying meat from Kroger in the first place? Or Publix, or Safeway, or Walmart (!) or any other traditional, commercial grocery chain.

    No offense to the original poster (who at least reads labels), but anyone who’s been anywhere near a newspaper or a public radio program in the past ten years can’t have escaped the increased reporting on the decline in safety and quality among commercial U.S. and U.K. meat producers and packagers. Every other week there’s a new book, report, controversy, etc. related to the poor conditions and health risks associated with it. (“How ’bout a nice big bite of Mad Cow disease? E-Coli, anyone? Better yet, here’s some ground up factory-worker goodness to spice up that burger!)

    The most recent report from a day or two ago was when NYT’s Michael Pollen followed up on how MRSA (the super-bacteria that’s now killing and infecting more people each year than AIDS) may be proliferating because of practices in commercial pork factories. Mmmm…MRSA; so tasteee!

    [www.nytimes.com]

    Good to see a few consumerists recommending small butchers and buying local, but all good consumerists should be aware of the corner cutting practiced in commercial farming. Having read about it in the news for so many years now, I can’t shake the creeps I get just thinking about supermarket meat.

    I was a vegetarian for years, and now I only eat meat once or twice a month, either out at a locally sustaining restaurant, or by cooking it at home after I have it delivered. I’m lucky, because I live in California, and delivery is easy, but there are small farms all over.

    Here are some places to check out:
    Marin Sun Farms – [www.marinsunfarms.com]
    Organic Prairie – [www.organicprairie.com]
    Niman Ranch – [www.nimanranch.com]
    Eat Wild – [www.eatwild.com]

    Happy Hunting!
    :)

  46. UpsetPanda says:

    A pound of ground beef at Niman Ranch is close to $8. That’s a slightly bigger price tag than I imagined, but not terrible, if you don’t eat burgers too much. How much meat does anyone put into one burger patty?

    Honestly, for a lot of people, buying organic is NOT a solution, because organic requires more money. Buying safe is a matter of being aware of grocery stores, their practices, and the practices of companies higher up in the chain of distribution, production, and management of animals. For most people in this country, organic food and going to a local butcher is somewhat of a luxury. What’s close is most likely cheaper, and beggars can’t always be choosers.

    I buy meat from the grocery store, not because I don’t care about the factories, or the practices of the distribution chain, but because I simply cannot justify spending the extra money to have some items shipped to me. I shop at Whole Foods, Wegmans and Trader Joes, but I suspect that a lot of people are like me…we want to buy totally organic everything, or go to a local butcher, but the theory is better than the execution.

  47. UpsetPanda says:

    Oops, didn’t mean for that whole last part to be in italics. Don’t read with italicized emphasis!

  48. ManicPanic says:

    @paconsumerist: Thanks for making my Tuesday! I will be in south Florida with family next week and they will appreciate the new saying. “Hair Bears” HA!

  49. meeroom says:

    Recently I got hooked on the PBS “House” series (1900 house, 1940s house, frontier house, etc). The shows have really made me think about modern ways of life, and I’m trying to cut back on my consumption of certain things. I’m willing to pay more for Laura’s Lean beef if I only eat it a few times a month. And I go to my local butcher for everything else and just make sure I use the heck out of it. (Chicken turns into leftovers turns into chicken stock, etc).
    I’m trying to eat more inexpensive bulk items such as beans and rice as well. It’s cut down on my grocery bill even though I am buying more expensive meat. So if you trade quantity for quality you’re still doing okay with the food bills.

  50. rich815 says:

    >>>>They do this because most people don’t know how that they should brine chicken/pork before cooking, or they don’t have the time to do it.

    Right. Right. Exactly. I sure do miss grandma’s homemade brined roast chicken or pork. Now those were some Sundays….watching football while grandma was in the kitchen injecting the chicken with brine….ah, I can see it now…time’s sure have changed. Who’s got time to brine their chicken or pork anymore? Not me. Shame really.

  51. Crotty says:

    I really dont’t think organic or local meat is more expensive, if you eat less meat and enjoy the meat you eat more. Trying buying half as much, if you must eat meat. Then compare the half a pound you bought organic to the full pound Kroger or Walmart meat (and figure in the expensive injected porkwater). Still hungry? Supplement with some rice and beans. And it is relatively easy to be a great cook if you start with good ingredients, not the cheapest cut from Kroger!

    I know, radical.

    Speaking of pork, it is less fatty (and therefore less flavorful) now compared to years ago because pigs eat corn now, which is cheap. Cheap corn=cheap pork. And corn is cheap because our taxes got to farmers in states the midwest with relatively small populations, but 2 senators each. It’s not because the meat producers want us to eat less fat. They don’t care how much fat we eat! We have to take care of that ourselves.

  52. stevemis says:

    Around these parts, it’s called “chicken squeezins”.

  53. krom says:

    It’s ridiculous. Every time I buy tofu it is literally BATHING in water!

    …Sorry.

  54. Eukaryote says:

    I actually watched a special on History Channel on the preparation of meat and coldcuts last night, and they showed this exact thing. (It also had the unintended effect of reinforcing my vegetarianism.)

    Either way, the brine injected pushes the proteins in the meat out toward the surface of the turkey, and that’s what that gelatinous paste is when you unwrap them. It apparently helps them keep more moisture in, rather than losing it in the cooking process. They don’t put just brine in, however, it also has sugar and spice. (Which is about all that is nice about it)

  55. scampy says:

    @cabooglio:

    Because white flour is good. Wheat flour tastes bad and is brown and has grains of seeds or something in it

  56. iamme99 says:

    @CROTTY – I really dont’t think organic or local meat is more expensive, if you eat less meat and enjoy the meat you eat more. Trying buying half as much, if you must eat meat. Then compare the half a pound you bought organic to the full pound Kroger or Walmart meat

    I’m sure this makes sense to you but I am at a bit of a loss. I think we want to compare apples to apples as they say, or pounds to pounds. Not 1/2 pound to 1 pound…..

  57. themediatrix says:

    @ CAFFEINATEDSQUINT

    Like Crotty says, you can eat less meat, but higher quality. My husband and I both work a lot, and in creative fields that aren’t always nine-to-five. I really wanted to simplify having to worry about what to cook each week, whose turn it is, etc. So we do the whole “cook once, eat twice” thing and plan a menu each week (a week ahead) that’s easy but healthy.

    Our system is to make an “advance” crock-pot item on Sunday that we’ll use for dinner on Monday and Wednesday — usually based on beans (Cuban Black Beans, Lentil-Spinach Stew, Ranch-Style Vegetarian Chili, etc.)

    Then we make a fish dish on Tuesday, and make enough to have the leftovers Thursday (Petrale Sole w/ Lemon and Almonds, Salmon Steaks w/ Roasted Red Peppers, Ahi Tuna Steaks, Pacific Rock Cod w/ Tomatoes and Olives).

    Friday we usually grab something out, and Saturday we fend for ourselves, usually with a sandwich or elaborate nachos. So our “Meat day” is Sunday. If we have leftovers in the house, we just eat those, but if not, we take something out of the freezer in the morning to thaw and then we prep it while we make the crock pot.

    London Broil from Marin Sun is only around seven dollars for two servings, pork chops aren’t too expensive, and a lot of times, we just take the sliced Roast Beef from Organic Prairie and use it in a giant salad with tons of veggies.

    Beans, rice and vegetables are really economical, so we’re splurging on the fish and the meat — but we alternate expensive Wild Salmon with ultra-cheap Sole, and we alternate fancy cuts of meat with the less expensive cuts. It turns out to actually save us money in the long run. We don’t eat out as often as we used to because the food is already made, AND it’s good. Plus we’ve learned to cook new things, and the time we spend in the kitchen is creative and fun/relaxing.

    When I was single, I ate out a LOT and spent a ton of money on it. I also ate lots of fake-meat products, until I found out that the processed hydrolyzed soy-protein isn’t very good for you. (I can tell that I’m healthier now, just by the way I feel, even though I still eat the occasional crappy thing – like Cheetos.)

    We have most of our groceries delivered from http://www.planetorganics.com because I can get a little **too** into shopping, wasting hours reading labels and comparing brands and applying cost analysis. (Hence, my affection for the Consumerist.)

    Anyway, all this detail is just to illustrate that if you set up some kind of system, it’s really not that expensive or difficult to avoid the supermarket meat, and it’s kinda fun.

  58. route52 says:

    All I can think is…

    Hot Ham Water! It’s water… with a faint smack of ham!

  59. crnk says:

    @iamme99:
    You mean his post doesn’t make you want to go out and eat a half burger tonight?
    ….I wonder why….oh wait, his post just doesn’t make sense, as you’ve already figured out.

  60. ninabi says:

    I’ve had dishes ruined by “chicken water”. The cut, floured and browned chicken cubes oozed. It diluted the sauce it was simmering in.

    Instead of a thick coconut milk curry it was soupy. I’ve made the dish hundreds of times and was confused.

    Then I checked the chicken package. Enhanced.

    Feh. No more of that. It is a problem to find meat without a solution.

  61. boxjockey68 says:

    Oh god, all this meat talk is so gross, I am so glad I don’t eat meat…

  62. CumaeanSibyl says:

    God, I want a burger right now. I think there’s something wrong with me.

  63. RvLeshrac says:

    @SOhp101:

    That is exactly why they do it. Otherwise, you wind up with complaints about how dry the meat was when cooked.

    @ninabi:

    It is more of a problem if you’re buying cuts of meat. Makes it difficult to find beef and pork, but whole chickens are often ‘safe’ from this.

    You can also try sealing the meat before you flour it.

  64. Mr. Gunn says:

    @cabooglio: Because milled bread flour has a high gluten content, whereas with whole wheat flour the large granules don’t release as much gluten, therefore your bread doesn’t rise and you end up with a dense, hard loaf. Also, whole wheat has a different taste.

    Other than that, though, right on.

  65. dazzlezak says:

    Costco, Costco, Costco.

    Hey for 4.95 they even rotisserie roast a whole chicken. (I don’t have to heat up my house in the summer with my oven.)

  66. iamme99 says:

    Costco’s around here (Northern CA) increased the size of their rotisserie chickens to $5.99 & 4 1/2 lbs (I think) a while back. Pretty huge but gives me dinner for maybe 3-4 days now for $6!

    I just wish they would cook them longer.

  67. mobilene says:

    When I buy the water-enhanced meats, more than half the time it aggravates my youngest son’s eczema. Just what he needs. So I try to avoid the stuff. It gets harder all the time.

  68. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @boxjockey68: I am so glad you took the time to step off your pedestal to read a bunch of comments about something you dislike. And to inject such a awesome comment! thanks buddy.

    @mobilene: You know I never had eczema before until I moved to L.A. we were buying most of our meat from Vons and Ralphs. We switched to a local butcher after the whole family got food poisoning from some “enhanced” chicken. Unexpectedly the eczema went away, not scientific by any means just a coincidence? Anyway we actually buy less meat because the quality is so much better. I can eat 6oz of the good steak and enjoy it more than the larger cuts I used to eat.