IQF chicken

Crying fowl over brine-boosted chicken

Dawn Connell’s son lived in the UK for some years where he routinely bought frozen chicken portions which he cooked at low heat for a long time until they were soft and tasty, and then used the flesh to make sandwiches or quick meals.

“Having returned to South Africa, he bought a 2kg pack of frozen chicken portions, and cooked them the way he did overseas,” Dawn told Consumer Watch. “But he was astounded when he took the dish out of the oven – the pieces were swimming in a watery, oily liquid. He then weighed the pieces and discovered that they were very slightly over 1kg. Do you think the company is injecting their frozen chicken with water?”

Welcome to the wonderful world of IQF chicken in South Africa. Individually quick frozen portions.

It’s a huge industry in South Africa – IQF products make up about 60 percent of total retail chicken, but unlike in many other countries, there is no legislation controlling the percentage of brine which may be injected into the pieces.

Sadly, that’s tantamount to an invitation to exploit.

The poultry industry argues that the practice is primarily intended to make frozen chicken more succulent; that without the injection of brine – mostly water – the cooked product would be dry.

But clearly in South Africa, where the addition of about 30 percent of brine appears to be the norm – creating those apparently giant frozen pieces in the 2kg or 1.8kg packs – the prime purpose is to make the product “more affordable”.

Generally, the words “make more affordable” mean “trick you into thinking you’re getting more than you actually are”, or “trick you into thinking that what you’re buying is the cheaper option”.

Those new “mini” toilet rolls are said to be “more affordable”.

Yes, you pay less than you would for a “standard” pack of two-ply toilet rolls, but you’re getting a pack of 200-sheet rolls, instead of 350-sheet rolls, and if you do the maths, you’ll realise that these “more affordable” toilet rolls are the most expensive ones on the market.

When companies redesign their packaging to make the pack slightly smaller, in the hope you won’t notice, they’ll say – when questioned – that it’s to make the product more affordable; and that failure to downsize the pack would have meant that the price of the original pack would have gone up substantially.

So instead they do us a “favour” by allowing us to pay less, and get less.

The IQF chicken phenomenon is yet another version of the “more affordable” con.

Your nice, plump pieces of chicken release most of that injected brine during the cooking process, leaving you with far less meat, and a lot of watery stuff.

Expensive water.

If the industry wasn’t excessively injecting IQF chicken with brine, it would have to cost more, we’re told.

But at least it would be an honest product. And if you do the maths, you’ll find that if you account for the fact that “cheap” IQF chicken pieces are about 30 percent water, unadulterated frozen chicken pieces, or even fresh ones, are not all that much more expensive, if at all, in some cases.

Here’s the thing – consumers do not like being duped.

I get a steady stream of e-mails from people who’ve worked out the IQF con and are outraged…..

…. The encouraging news is that the government is taking steps to reduce the amount of brine which can legally be added to IQF chicken.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has drafted changes to the Agricultural Product Standards Act aimed at reducing the total weight of brine in chicken to just 4 percent – considered to be a level which is more about ensuring meat succulence than consumer deception.

Another practice that is not illegal is that of “reworking” frozen chicken portions, particularly ones imported from countries such as Brazil….. Read the full article

Additional reading:

DoH on warpath over mislabelled IQF chicken