Wendyl Wants to Know: Chop chop to beat bodybuilders to these

By Wendyl Nissen

Every week, Wendyl Nissentakes a readily available packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

Chop Chop! Chicken Chunks
Smoked Flavour - $2.14 for 85g

When these little tins of canned chicken first arrived on our supermarket shelves I found it hard to believe they would last long.

Canned fish we were used to, but chicken breasts which take a moment to cook at home, chopped up and put in a can and shipped in from Thailand just didn't seem right.

Yet, they have found a home in the hearts of Kiwis as the range has now extended to 10 different flavours and takes up a fair bit of shelf space, which means sales are strong.

This may be down to the fact that bodybuilders just love them. Chicken breast is low fat and a good source of protein and canned chicken is a common topic of discussion on bodybuilders' websites.

The commercial for this product boasts high protein, low fat and no preservatives.

Which is all true. Let's see what else is in it.

Chicken (72 per cent)
According to the label this is premium cooked breast meat which is preferred by bodybuilders and health conscious people because it is high in protein and low in fat. You'll get 12.9g of pure protein per can and only 1.3g fat. These chunks of breast meat come from Thailand which is the world's largest chicken exporter.

During the bird flu outbreak in 2004 several countries in the European Union and Japan banned raw chicken meat imports from Thailand but it is not true that you catch bird flu from eating chicken, you catch it by being in close contact with live chickens that have the disease according to the UK Food Standards Agency. Since the bird flu outbreak, however, Thailand has increased its exports of cooked meat, such as this product, which is a safer alternative. As we all know properly cooked chicken doesn't contain nasty bacteria such as campylobacter and salmonella. Because of Thailand's large scale production of poultry - more than 400,000 tonnes a year - if you have a problem with battery farmed poultry or cruelty to animals you won't want to support this product.

Thailand has no animal welfare legislation although its first animal welfare bill is under review.

The label also has a barely readable logo ( I had to use a magnifying glass ) which gives it Halal certification, meaning the chicken was slaughtered according to Halal, the food code by which Muslims live.

Springwater (25 per cent)
By definition springwater is obtained from under the ground and is rich in minerals so is often referred to as mineral water. The chicken chunks are sitting in the water which you drain off before eating.

Smoke Flavour (1 per cent)
This flavouring can be made two ways. Smoke can be condensed into a liquid which is called "liquid smoke" and then added to the food to impart a smoky flavour. Or the flavour can be achieved by mixing chemicals together to get the same taste. Either way, this product isn't smoked, it's just flavoured to taste like it has been.

SaltThe label says you get 329mg of sodium per serving of this product. But that is the equivalent of 822 mg of salt which is quite high. While we may regard sodium and salt being the same thing it isn't. Salt is made up of sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl).

By just listing the sodium content of foods manufacturers can mislead us as to the amount of salt, especially when watching salt intake for health reasons. If you see a sodium level, multiply it by 2.5 to get the equivalent salt intake. And remember it is recommended that most adults consume no more than 6g of salt a day.

Thickener (1442)
This is Hydroxypropyl distarch phosphate, basically a starch which has been treated to be more stable and work as a thickener.

Sugar
Total sugars present are 0.8g, which isn't too bad.

Sunflower Oil
This is a common oil in mass food production because it mixes well with water and is low in saturated fat.

My recommendations
You might want to buy locally produced chicken meat, cook up a breast or two and leave it covered in the fridge for two days to use in the same way you might use this canned chicken in salads, on sandwiches or crackers or with rice and pasta.

Cost wise this is a little cheaper. For the equivalent 61g of breast meat, which is what you get from this can when drained, you will pay $1.70 for free range boneless and skinless breast or $1.22 for regular boneless and skinless breast. This product costs $2.14.

If you cook your own you can take control over which meat you buy, free-range or otherwise and know that you are supporting our local poultry industry. But, if you are a busy bodybuilder and just want a quick shot of protein, this product is light on additives and preservatives.

Highlights

* It takes seven ingredients to produce a bit of chopped up chicken breast.

* Surprisingly low on preservatives but does contain smoke flavouring.

* The chicken comes from Thailand which has no animal welfare legislation.

* Properly cooked chicken meat does not carry nasty bacteria.

Do you have a food product you would like to feature in Wendyl Wants to Know?
Email wendylwantstoknow@gmail.com with suggestions. Unfortunately Wendyl cannot correspond with readers.

- NZ Herald

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