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Is Chicken Really a “Natural” Food?

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Being health conscious, you’ve probably already cut down on eating beef and are eating more chicken. But is that chicken you’re eating really a natural food? This is the question being posed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Is chicken injected with salt, water and other ingredients really “natural”? The unsettled answer has prompted federal officials to consider changing labeling guidelines.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates food labeling and until now has maintained that if chicken wasn't flavored artificially or preserved with chemicals, it could carry the word "natural" on the package. So why is the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Department planning to issue new proposed rules?

There has been a wave of input from some producers, politicians and health advocates. They contend that about one-third of chicken sold in the U.S. is injected with additives. With this additional salt, water and other ingredients it increases the meat’s weight by 15 percent. This means that the chicken’s sodium content is double or triple what it would be naturally.

A recent AP article states that “Perdue, the nation's third largest poultry producer, is among those pushing for a change. The company has joined a group called the Truthful Labeling Coalition, which has hired a lobbyist and launched an advertising campaign.

"Our labels say natural or all natural only if there is nothing added," Perdue spokesman Luis Luna said. "Under no circumstances is it acceptable to label poultry that has been enhanced with water or broth or solutions as natural, or all natural."

This practice of injecting chicken has become more practice than exception in recent years. So, it’s an important question to consider for the health conscious and the savvy consumer.

Tyson Chicken’s spokesperson Gary Mickelson contends that consumers don’t mind that these added ingredients are added to “natural” labeled food as long as it is disclosed. And, Pilgrim’s Pride spokesperson, Gary Rhodes said that his company just wants to offer a choice to the consumer. He says, “we offer both 100 percent natural enhanced and non-enhanced fresh chicken.

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