Plumped poultry ruffles some feathers: survey

by Bryan Salvage
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LIVINGSTON, CALIF. — Foster Farms launched a "Say No to Plumping" public information campaign on May 11 to raise awareness of saltwater-injected chicken. Injecting raw chicken with saltwater is employed by many chicken companies, which costs consumers money and contributes to serious health issues, Foster charges. According to U.S.D.A. labeling laws, brands injecting poultry with saltwater solution can label their chicken "100% Natural" or "All-Natural."

Consumers remain largely in the dark on plumping and would prefer only non-injected chicken be labeled as "All-Natural," according a survey commissioned by Foster Farms this past March.

"Our survey found most consumers have no idea that the fresh, raw chickens they purchase intending to season or marinate themselves can contain such high levels of salt," said Ira Brill, director of marketing. "Many poultry brands contend that injected poultry yields juicier, more flavorful meat, but our survey demonstrates consumers want to know what they're paying for. Foster Farms' 100% Natural, fresh chicken line is never plumped."

Survey results indicate most consumers (63.1%) are largely unaware of the hidden salt in many poultry brands and felt deceived after learning about it. Other survey findings include:

  • Although 71.3% of consumers try to watch their sodium intake at least some of the time, many remain unaware of some of the "fine print" in product labels, even for U.S.D.A.-labeled "100% Natural," minimally-processed foods like chicken.
  • 85.9% of those surveyed did not realize one serving of some brands' fresh, raw chicken could contain more salt per serving than a large order of french fries. Some brands of plumped chicken can contain 440 mg of sodium, versus 350 mg of sodium in a large order of french fries from a national fast food chain, Foster Farms charges.
  • 74.5% of consumers believe fresh chicken labeled as "natural" should contain no additives or preservatives; 82.4% believe fresh chicken carrying the "natural" label should not be injected with saltwater.
  • After learning the saltwater in injected chicken could cost them nearly $1.50 per package, 69.2% of consumers felt deceived and 37.2% felt angry.
  • After learning about "plumping," 70.7% will change how they shop for fresh chicken: 85.4% will read nutrition labels and avoid saltwater-injected chicken, while 71.7% vowed to warn a friend.
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