Fowl Play: Pumped and Plumped Meat

Ever wonder about those plump well-endowed DD cup chickens at the supermarket?  Yes, chickens today are bred to be mostly breasts, but that’s not all.   Such chickens — or at least their parts — could well be examples of “reformed meat technology” also known as “pumped meat.”  Same might be true of supermarket turkeys, hams, beef and even fish.
To create simulated “whole cuts,” food processors start with pieces of real meat, poultry or fish, then mix in — or inject — some form of soy protein along with soy or another vegetable oil, food colorings, salt, phosphates, flavorings (including MSG) and other additives. These are then massaged, shaped and bound into familiar meat-like shapes — such as chicken nuggets.   After fabrication, these products may be sliced, ground or dried.

Such products sell poorly in supermarkets– where ingredient labels are required– but briskly at fast food establishments where customers rarely ask nosy questions about what’s in those meaty nuggets and nobody is required to tell them.    In 1990 Clyde Boismenue, a longtime distributor for Archer Daniels Midland, said in an interview with William Shurtleff of the Soy Foods Center in Lafayette, California, that one of the main obstacles in the U.S. to gaining consumer acceptance for his products was the “obnoxious meat labeling requirement.”   Specifically he was upset that  “if isolates are injected into ham, it must be sold as ‘smoked pork ham with soy protein isolate product.’’‘   Seems the soy industry has been hot and bothered by such labeling requirements for years.   Back in 1969 Soybean Digest reviewed the regulatory problems and complained that “new product concepts” would be canceled because of “standard of identity” problems as well as failure to secure prompt government approvals.”   Pity.

So what about those plump chickens at the supermarket?  If they look like chickens, they are probably not reformulated, but they might well be plumped — meaning pumped up with a broth-like liquid containing sodium, water and other solutions and then sold as “all natural chicken.”  These additives can legally make up fifteen percent of “all natural” chicken, a situation that Dr William Campbell Douglass II has described as “the most clucked up nonsense I’ve ever heard!”

Dr Douglass goes on to say such “bizarre logic” could only be found in Washington  because anyone with “even a bird-sized brain knows that broth and sodium solutions are no more a ‘natural’ part of a chicken than a McNugget.”    Even Perdue — a major purveyor of low-quality, factory-farmed chickens — has asked the USDA to change this regulation.

Interesting that Perdue, a company whose founder claimed “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” has decided to take a tough stance against the USDA and protest the unnatural ways its competitors tenderize chickens.  As for Perdue, the best thing that can be said about its factory-farming operation is that its famous slogan has been hysterically mangled in translation, leading to laughter heard around the world.  Billboards in Mexico for a brief time said, “It takes a hard man to make a chicken aroused.”  In other countries, it was translated into “It takes a virile man to make a chicken pregnant.”   Meanwhile, Kentucky Fried Chicken has had its own translation problems.  In China, the slogan “finger-lickin’ good” came out as “eat your fingers off.”  Hopefully, such advertising scared people into buying  locally!

Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, is The Naughty NutritionistTM because of her ability to outrageously and humorously debunk nutritional myths. A popular guest on radio and television, she has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, ABC's View from the Bay, NPR's People's Pharmacy and numerous other shows. Her own radio show, "Naughty Nutrition with Dr. Kaayla Daniel," launches April 2011 on World of Women Radio. Dr. Daniel is the author of The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food, a popular speaker at Wise Traditions and other conferences, and recipient of its 2005 Integrity in Science Award. Her website is and she can be reached at

One Response to Fowl Play: Pumped and Plumped Meat

  1. Wenchypoo says:

    It’s interesting to note that in my quest for low-sodium foods (below 100 mg./serving), Perdue is the ONLY commercially-raised chicken brand that fits the bill.

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