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IQF Chicken

Govt moves to cut chicken brining levels

The poultry industry has been given a year to adjust its brine levels to a maximum of 15 percent in individually quick frozen (IQF) chicken portions, down from the level of 30 percent currently allowed, following plans announced by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to amend the regulations.

Brine is a salt solution injected into meat to retain succulence and flavour once the chicken has been defrosted. 

However over time this technique has been abused by producers who inject excessive quantities of brine into their produce. In some IQF portions the levels of brine can be 30% or higher according to the Agricultural Research Council which conducted research on this for DAFF.

The department is of the opinion that these levels go beyond what is necessary to retain succulence and flavour and suggest that some producers are deliberately manipulating the weight of their chicken portions.

Frozen chicken accounts for about 90% of the local market, making brining a more important process in SA than in some other countries. IQF products, such as frozen chicken portions, make up about 60% of total retail chicken sales.

The poultry industry’s reaction to the proposed amendment was mixed, with some saying this would bring finality to the brine issue and others saying it would have a detrimental impact on the price of frozen chicken.

“We still need to canvass our members for their feedback,” says Kevin Lowell, CEO of the SA Poultry Association. “But my sense is that this level is on the lower end of practical.”

Chris Schutte, CEO of Astral Foods, the country’s largest producer of IQF chicken pieces, says he is dismayed by the level set by DAFF, but needs more time to review the DAFF documentation before commenting. “The decision came as a surprise in an election year as it will impact consumers negatively,” he noted. Astral is consulting its legal team to decide on the next course of action.

Astral Foods said there were certain technical flaws in the proposed regulation and these should be taken up with the department.

Stephen Heath, RCL Foods’ group legal and corporate affairs director, said the company was quite happy there was finality in the matter.

“It has been a concern for some time and the finality in the matter makes things better.”

“It also has been a concern that there have been some discrepancies [among] poultry producers in terms of the percentage of brine that has been injected into chickens. We think 15 percent is reasonable and it is slightly more in line with the international standards. It is close to what we think is needed to maintain succulence.”

“The main reason for brining is to maintain the moisture between freezing and defrosting; the idea is to replenish more or less the same amount of moisture,” he said.

Source: Business Report, BD Live

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