Enhanced Meat - A Primer

I first wrote the article below, on my blog back in 2009. It is now 2016 and enhancing has become rampant. When I wrote this it was focused on pork, but poultry has now become as as big, if not bigger of an issue than pork.
The issue is even more relevant than it was when I first posted it, so I have revamped the post and am reissuing it for 2016.

Enhanced Meats: Is your meat enhanced??

A couple of times a year, the topic of brining comes up, and along with it the topic of injected (enhanced) meats.
While this post deals specifically with Pork it is also relevant to Poultry as well.
If you are watching your sodium intake or have other dietary concerns, then this should be required reading.

Is Your Meat Enhanced?

Beware! There is an impostor lurking on your grocers’ shelf. You most certainly have seen this impostor, and more than likely you have this impostor in your freezer. It masquerades as a Natural and/or Minimally Processed product. It has been injected (or soaked/marinated) with a mysterious solution that can effect not the only the way it tastes but the way it cooks, and it’s nutrient contents.

Who (or in this case, what) is this nefarious poser?……………Meat; Poultry, Pork & Beef.

It seems that over the years producers of meats & poultry have done a great job in catering to the masses that clamor for leaner products. So great in fact that they are much leaner than in years past, and this is where the problem begins.

Leaner meats, means less fat. Less fat means less flavor, and meats that dry out quicker during cooking.

Well the powers that be in the meat industry certainly don’t want to be in the business of selling dry meats with less flavor. Not when consumers may be able to find fattier (and therefore juicer & more flavorful) meats somewhere else. So what is the answer?

Easy: Let’s change the meat so the consumers can have leaner meats, that are also juicy & flavorful. They discovered that by injecting additives into the meat (known as "plumping"), they can do just this, but not just any additives.
What if they added also added chemicals that would help to preserve the meat (color, etc) for the long drive to your local grocer?

Well folks this is not a lead in for a science fiction story about how corporate greed created a mutated food supply for all to ingest, sadly this is a real and everyday occurrence. So does this mean there is a clandestine operation somewhere injecting these additives in a dark alley somewhere?
Nope, not at all, it is legal, regulated (USDA) and is supposed to be identified to the consumer on each and every package.

You may be asking; why should I care, it is legal right?
Yes it is legal, and yes you should care for many reasons:

  • Are you a diabetic or someone watching your sodium intake?

  • Do you wonder why some meats seem to cook quicker and taste different than other meats of the same cut, size & weight?

  • Do you buy meats and other products based on an “All Natural” label?

  • Do you wonder why some pork you buy & cook, ends up tasting “hammy”

  • If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, keep reading.

A collaborative study was conducted by scientists at USDA, University of Wisconsin, University of Maryland, and the National Pork Board to determine the nutrient contents of pork, enhanced and non-enhanced. A copy of that study can be found here: Pork Nutrient Study.

The study begins by stating that it is estimated that 45% of fresh pork cuts are enhanced. It goes onto examine the differences in nutrients between enhanced and non-enhanced pork. The surprising results were that on pork cuts that were Braised (cooked in liquid) the sodium content was over 200% higher in enhanced pork versus non-enhanced pork. When these same cuts were Roasted or Broiled the sodium content increased to over 500% in the enhanced products!

This has become a huge problem, especially for people that are battling health issues.

Consider these points made in the conclusions of the study.

•Nutrient levels of sodium, phosphorus and potassium are
significantly elevated in enhanced products and may be further
elevated due to the concentrating effect on the nutrients
resulting from moisture loss during heating.
•The addition of these new data in SR (Standard Reference) will provide specific and current product information on enhanced pork cuts for use in
nutrition monitoring, research, food policy development, and
dietary counseling of individuals, particularly those with sodium
and phosphorus-related health issues, such as hypertension and
renal disease.

The substances that they “enhance” the meats with vary, but tend to be: Sodium Phosphate, Potassium Lactate & broth.

One particular brand contains “up to a twelve percent solution”, the concentration does vary from one brand to another, with some brands reported to be as low as 1.5% solution up to 15% (the highest I have seen, outside of cured meats).Obviously the lower the concentration the better, but I strive to locate local meat processors and attempt to buy non-enhanced meats.

The bottom line is this: Read the labels thoroughly, and understand what it is you are buying, cooking and eating.

This is one of the reasons we at Naturiffic, strive to provide products without any added chemicals or preservatives.
You can use any of our Gourmet Sea Salts or Brining Salts to naturally enhance your meat and poultry.