Beware of Tricks at Local Grocery Stores

Read the fine print: the chicken is artificially injected with a 15% saline solution, for which you are paying by the pound

Read the fine print: the chicken is artificially injected with a 15% saline solution, for which you are paying by the pound

Last summer I picked up two raw chickens on sale at City Market, put one in the freezer and the other on the smoker for dinner. When it was done and I cut into it, the chicken oozed a milky-looking liquid and had a weird, stringy texture that all dinner guests agreed made it just too unappealing to eat. With my main dish inedible, I ran back to City Market with the second chicken and told them something was very wrong with it. They gave me my money back and I bought a ready-made rotisserie chicken to substitute for dinner that night. To say we were disappointed was an understatement.

After that, I couldn’t help but wonder: what was wrong with my chicken that it came out so funky?

The answer is, it wasn’t really chicken. The fine print on the label said the chicken had been “enhanced” with a “15% solution of chicken broth.”

This is what ruined my dinner. I cooked a chicken that had been pumped full of liquid, when I thought I was buying just chicken. It was also on sale, which meant it had probably been sitting around a little longer than desired prior to purchase.

“Enhancing” chicken is a euphemism for injecting it with a mixture of water, phosphate, sodium and sometimes carrageenan, a chemical derived from seaweed that increases the chicken’s ability to hold the injected liquid in its tissues. Injecting it this way plumps up the chicken, making it look more appealing to consumers. You can see a video of a chicken-injecting machine at work here.

Artificially “plumping,” “enhancing” and injecting poultry also helps manufacturers get a better “return on investment” (ROI). They run the chickens through big, automated machines that drive thousands of needles into them and inject them with the solution. The solution is cheap to make and increases the weight and volume of the birds, so customers pay more for it at the checkout station.

Chickens in a chicken injector machine

Chickens in a chicken injector machine

Manufacturers love this. They call it “injecting value into the product.” It makes the chicken look plump and shiny while forcing unwitting customers to pay chicken prices for saline solution instead of chicken. Most supermarket chicken has been adulterated in some way. Some packages say the chicken contains “up to 5% retained water.” This is essentially another way of “enhancing” the bird with cheap liquid, and making customers pay chicken prices for water.

The same goes for grocery store pork. Virtually all of it is “enhanced” with a solution prior to purchase, so you pay pork prices for a sodium solution instead of pork.

For people on a low-sodium diet, adulterated meat greatly increases the amount of sodium they get in their food.

Stores that Won’t Trick You

Fortunately, Grand Junction has some locally-owned stores that sell real, truly natural, unadulterated meat, fish and poultry. One is Quality Meats at 340 North Ave. In addition to excellent quality meat, fish and poultry Quality Meats also carries a good selection of other locally-made products, like jams and jellies, honey, seasoning mixes, barbecue sauces, mustards and syrups. Another store is Old World Meats at 1765 Main Street. Both shops are locally-owned and have been around a long time.

City Market blueberries: $1.88 for a "4.4 to 6 oz" package?

City Market blueberries: $1.88 for a “4.4 to 6 oz” package? Which packages have the smaller amounts in them?

Old World Meats has less of a selection, less reliable hours and fewer fresh (never frozen) products than Quality Meats. Another good bet for unadulterated meat products is Fisher’s Market at 625 24 1/2 Road, next to Fisher’s Liquor Barn. It’s a a newer market in Grand Junction, is a bit pricier and has less of a selection than Quality Meats.

These small shops are just out to sell quality products, not trick consumers. If you shop at these places, there’s no need to read any sneaky fine print on your package or wonder what’s in them besides what you think you’re buying. These stores give you straight-up products for your heard-earned money.

Also, when buying blueberries at City Market recently, I noticed that the shelf label said the price was for packages containing “4.4 to 6 oz” of berries, but none of the packages were labeled as to which contained the lesser amount of berries.

Avoiding Chamber-Member Businesses?

If you are among the many local consumers who are avoiding businesses that belong to the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, Fisher’s Market Premium Natural Meats IS a chamber member, but Quality Meats and Old World Meats are NOT members, so shop away!

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