We could not find our traditional Christmas Day dinner, a goose, this year, but as we also love duck we compromised on buying two of them instead, with the label stating “enhanced with up to 12% solution of water and sodium phosphate”:
Enhance: Merriam-Webster defines enhanced as: heighten, increase; especially : to increase or improve in value, quality, desirability, or attractiveness <enhanced the room with crown molding> with the example: You can enhance the flavor of the dish by using fresh herb.
“Enhanced with” is nowadays found on many packages when buying meats. We also find “seasoned with” or just the basic “contains up to” and right behind there is not an exotic spice statement, but you will usually find the words “solution of” or any other derivative of the word “water”. The USDA excuses this that with modern breeding methods the meat offered to us is a lot leaner and to quote from the www.fsis.usda.gov website:
Hotline callers sometimes comment that today’s beef contains more water and also doesn’t taste the same as in the past. One reason for this is that today’s animals are bred to be leaner. Meat from these animals is naturally leaner and contains more water. The fat in meat contributes to flavor, so a leaner cut will taste different than a fattier cut. Some of these leaner cuts are enhanced with a flavor solution.
What does this “leaner” mean? I was taught that meat consists mainly of protein, fat, water and 1% ashes (the left over when you not only burn your meal, but actually cremate it, lol). If you notice I said mainly, so we will not account for the natural salts, minerals and so on in the same piece of meat.
As the protein content in meat is in the 20 – 30% range, depending on the type of the meat (from beef to chicken to venison) I selected as an example a very lean piece of meat, a chicken breast with about 23.5% protein and 1.7% fat, totaling (including the 1% ashes mentioned above) a little over 27%. This leaves almost 73% natural moisture/water content.
Now we enhance it. First let’s mix up some water with sodium phosphates (that is what we took out of the laundry detergents in the latter part of the last century as it caused havoc in our lakes and rivers, so now we add it to our food for the main purpose to bind more water in it) and inject or “marinate” the meat.
If you read the label, in the case of our duck, up to 12% water was added, the corned beef label I looked at stated a 25% solution, in pork loins 8 – 10% is very common. It started years ago with the “water added” statement on hams, now they call it broth, solution, seasoned with, marinated or any other term they can come up with, in the end it goes back to us buying expensive water.
Hey, we got so used to paying a high price for filtered city water in a bottle already, so why not pay for extra water in the meat.
Quick math question: If you have a lean piece of beef brisket which has over 71% natural water content (as per USDA) and you add a 25% water solution to make corned beef, what do you actually end up with?
Looking at pre-packaged chicken in the supermarkets you will also see the solution added statement on many of them.
They have to label the product if they add water!
The crowning statement here is besides calling it “enhanced” they actually call it “value-added”
Let me just add that in my observations the smaller independent owned meat markets seem to offer natural, un-pumped meats more often than the big chain stores.
If you want to see what the USDA writes about water in meats follow this link to their site.