Water in Meat and Poultry
"Why is all this water in the meat and poultry packages?" "There is so much water in my roast that I can't brown it — it's simmering instead!" "Are they injecting water into chickens?" These are some of the questions that consumers have asked about water in packages of fresh meat and poultry. Here is some background information about water in meat and poultry.
Naturally Occurring Moisture Content of Meat and Poultry
Meat and poultry are composed of naturally occurring water, muscle, connective tissue, fat, and bone. People eat meat for the muscle. The muscle is approximately 75% water (although different cuts may have more or less water) and 20% protein, with the remaining 5% representing a combination of fat, carbohydrate, and minerals. The percentage of naturally occurring water in meat varies with the type of muscle, the kind of meat, the season of the year, and the pH of the meat. Fat in meat is found both between muscles and within muscles. In both locations, fat contributes to overall flavor and juiciness in meats.
Water Content of Meat and Poultry
The amount of naturally occurring water, or moisture, present in meat and poultry may surprise consumers (see chart). An eye of round roast is 73% water before cooking. The same roast after roasting contains 65% water. A whole broiler-fryer contains 66% water before cooking and 60% afterwards. Leaner meat and poultry contain more protein and less fat. Since water is a component of protein (but not fat), a leaner cut will contain slightly more water on a per weight basis.
|WATER CONTENT OF MEAT AND POULTRY|
|Product Name||Percentage Water|
|Chicken fryer, whole||66%||60%|
|White meat chicken, with skin||69%||61%|
|Dark meat chicken, with skin||66%||59%|
|Ground beef, 85% lean||64%||60%|
|Ground beef, 73% lean||56%||55%|
|Beef, eye of round||73%||65%|
|Beef, whole brisket||71%||56%|
Enhanced Meat and Poultry Products
Enhanced or value-added meat and poultry products are raw products that contain flavor solutions added through marinating, needle injecting, soaking, etc. The presence and amount of the solution will be featured as part of the product name, for example, "Chicken Thighs Flavored with up to 10% of a Solution" or "Beef Steak Marinated with 6% of a Flavor Solution." The ingredients of the flavor solution must be prominently identified on the label. Typically, this information will be on the principal display panel or the information panel.
The labeling term "marinated" can only be used with specific amounts of solution. "Marinated" meats can contain no more than 10% solution; boneless poultry, no more than 8% solution; and bone-in poultry, no more than 3% solution.
In the case of enhanced products, the solutions that are added to the meat or poultry, or into which the meat or poultry are placed for flavoring, seasoning, and tenderizing, are intended to be part of the product. The solutions are required by regulations and policies to be identified as part of the product names of the enhanced products, and whether the solution is incorporated into the product or is free-flowing, it is considered part of the product.
Freezing Meat and Poultry
The faster meat and poultry freezes, the smaller the ice crystals will be. Smaller ice crystals will do less damage. Products that are flash-frozen by the manufacturer will have superior quality to fresh products frozen by the consumer.
Moisture Loss from Meat and Poultry
Beef is often ground while partially frozen. Because ice crystals are in the frozen beef, there may appear to be more liquid in it.
At the grocery store, the products are displayed in refrigerator cases as cold as 26 °F. At this temperature, the cells of the product will "loosen up" somewhat and some of the moisture will melt and gradually seep out. The production of this visible meat or poultry juice is known in the industry as weep or purge. It occurs during display of retail cuts, during shipment of wholesale cuts, and during storage of cuts prior to shipment.
In a home refrigerator set at 40 °F or below, even more liquid will seep out of the product. The longer a product sits in the refrigerator, the more liquid will be released from the muscle cells.
Packaging of Meat and Poultry
FSIS Regulations and Policies Relative to Retained Water
Consumers can compare product labels for the presence of retained (or absorbed) water to assure that products compare equally.
Establishments may include a "no-retained-water" statement on the label when the product has not been exposed to a post-evisceration process that adds water, or the establishment has data or information that establishes that the post-evisceration processing used does not add water to the product.
Retained Water in Raw Poultry Products
Retained Water in Raw Meat Products
Cooking Meat and Poultry