Anyone who cooks knows the feeling: your chicken breast is spiced and ready, your pan is piping hot, you drop the chicken on and fsssssssssssssssssssss – it starts boiling instead of frying.
A new analysis carried out by DR’s Kontant consumer program together with the Fødevarestyrelsen food authority reveals that seven out of nine tested samples contained much more water than declared on the label, and some had double as much.
The tested chicken came in packets from supermarket chains in the Salling Group, Coop and Dagrofa. Even chicken labelled as ‘100 percent chicken’ had water added.
An EU ruling defines the amount of water a chicken can contain naturally in order for it to be labelled as chicken. Any extra water added, for example to make the meat more tender, must be declared. This mixture of water, sugar and salt is often called ‘natural marinade’ on the label.
The worst first
In 2017 consumers bought chicken products to the tune of 2.3 billion kroner, so there are significant sums of money involved. It might appear that producers are adding extra water to enhance profits – a charge that supermarkets deny.
The worst culprit was ‘Budget’ breast fillets bought in Bilka, which contained 118 percent more water than was declared. Coop’s Xtra came second with 95 percent too much.
Nearer the other end, De 5 Gaard Herregårdskylling, supposedly without extra water, contained 8.4 percent, and breast fillets bought in Meny, also supposedly extra water-free, contained 5.8 percent.
The only products that lived up to the labelling and food authority regulations were Vores Fjerkræ chicken breasts, which did not have any extra water, and Rose chicken breasts, which exceeded the packing information by 2.8 percent but was still within the permitted parameters.
From the weird to the wonderful
The various producers have given DR’s Kontant a number of imaginative excuses.
Coop blames the excess water on its producer breeding a new strain of chicken that naturally has a lot of water in it, so when more water is added, the level exceeds the limits.
Dagrofa, which runs the Meny chain, argued the problem was down to natural variations amongst the birds and claims, on average, it is keeping within the legal levels.
Claus Hviid, the CEO of De 5 Gaard, commented bullishly that “Danpo slaughters and handles our chicken. I’m satisfied with the documentation I’ve been shown [by Danpo] and still say that chicken from De 5 Gaard has not had any water added to it.”