Wendyl Wants To Know

Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents.

Wendyl wants to know: Supersized chicken meal less than it looks

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Each week, Wendyl Nissen takes a packaged food item and decodes what the label tells you about its contents

This  chicken may look like an oversized frozen table bird  but it is only 91 per cent the real thing. Photo / Supplied
This chicken may look like an oversized frozen table bird but it is only 91 per cent the real thing. Photo / Supplied

Ingham Frozen Chicken Extra Large - $18.49 for 3kg. Serves 12.

When is a chicken not a chicken? Apparently when it is frozen.

I've had a few rather distressed readers email me about this particular brand of frozen chicken. Like most of us they scanned the freezers of their local supermarket looking for a frozen chicken, thinking they would get a chicken which had simply been put in a bag and frozen.

What they discovered when they got home, however, was that a chicken is not always just a chicken. In fact, in this frozen chicken which looks and feels like an ordinary chicken, only 91 per cent of it is actually chicken.

"How can this be?" asked one reader. "I bought a chicken and now I have all these additives. Why would they need to add them and are they bad for me?"


Ingredients

Chicken (91 per cent) - The label tells us that this is New Zealand chicken, barn-raised with no hormones. The definition of barn-raised, according to the SAFE website, are hens that are kept in large sheds with limited space and no access to outdoors. A maximum of seven hens can be kept per square metre. So we're not talking free-range chicken here.

Water - No idea how much water has been added to this chicken, but an awful lot came out as it defrosted.

Salt - There is 705mg of sodium per 250g serving of this chicken. There is some sodium in raw chicken - for a chicken breast there is about 162mg per 250g - so we're looking at about 500mg of added sodium.

Mineral salts (451, 450) - These are diphosphates which are salts of phosphoric acid which are commonly used in processed foods as texturisers, emulsifiers or sequestering additives which preserve the colour, flavour, texture or appearance of a food product.

Sugar - This will most certainly be in here as part of the "marinade" for flavour. There isn't a lot at less than 1g per 250g serve.

Hydrolysed vegetable protein (soy) - This is otherwise known as HVP and is created when soy is boiled in hydrochloric acid and then broken down with sodium hydroxide to release the protein. It is used in foods as a flavour enhancer and sometimes as a protein filler.

Thickeners (415,410) - These are xanthan gum and locust bean gum, both natural products and here to thicken something, what I'm not sure. It's a chicken, what's there to thicken?

Made in New Zealand with 100 per cent New Zealand chicken plus local and imported ingredients. This tells us that the chicken is from New Zealand but there could be some ingredients in the 9 per cent that aren't chicken and that have been imported from other countries.


My recommendation

Closer inspection of the packaging surrounding this rather enormous chicken are the words "tender marinated chicken", which explains the seven additives such as thickeners, mineral salts, salt and sugar.

None of them is a health concern and they are in there presumably to keep the chicken tender and tasting good when cooked, because I would imagine a chicken this size could get rather dry when cooked. But I think many people would be fooled into buying this chicken thinking that they were just getting a chicken as it comes once the feathers have been plucked.

All other frozen chickens in the freezer I looked at stated "100 per cent chicken" on their ingredients label, so this is an unusual product.

My advice would be to buy fresh chickens if you can, frozen if you can't, and if you feel they need a marinade then apply that yourself using natural ingredients like soy sauce, garlic, chilli and a little brown sugar if you really have to.


Highlights

• Looks like a chicken but is only 91 per cent chicken.

• No artificial flavours, colours or preservatives.

• Seven additives to marinate and keep the chicken tender plus an awful lot of water.


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

- NZ Herald

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