Peruse the poultry section of your local grocery store and you’re sure to find a whole host of chicken products labeled “natural.” Don't be fooled. In this day, “natural” has become an empty term, more a marketing ploy than a reflection of a product’s quality. According to current USDA standards, a chicken product can be labeled natural if it contains no artificial ingredients, added coloring or chemical preservatives—but what about additives that might be considered “natural”?
About one-third of the chicken sold in the U.S. is injected with salt water, increasing the products' weight by 15 percent—and doubling or even tripling its sodium content. The added salt water makes the chicken tender and easier to handle, but it also raises health concerns in a nation already plagued by sodium excess.
Almost one-third of the chicken products sold in the U.S. are injected with salt water, doubling and sometimes tripling the product's sodium content. Photo By romanlily/Courtesy Flickr.
Under the USDA's current standards, chicken products injected with this salt water solution can be labeled natural. Many chicken manufacturers offer truly natural choices, but the current labeling standards make it difficult for customers to find these choices. In light of this, the USDA is considering revising its labeling standards for natural chicken. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will look into the matter this fall.
In the meantime, choose products for you and your family that you know are healthy. Just Bare Chicken products contain no additional ingredients, including salt and water. Buying chicken from a local farmer is also a good way to ensure that your products are free of any additives or preservatives.