Chicken, salt, and water all are natural, but when you combine the three what you get is chicken that is anything but "all natural."
The practice of pumping up poultry with salt water is basically a hidden tax of up to 15 percent that extracts about $2 billion from American consumers each year. This isn’t about "enhancing" chicken, it's about enhancing profits.
If you think you’re buying 7.5 pounds of chicken, and 15 percent is water weight, then you're really getting less than six and a half pounds of chicken and more than one pound of added water.
One of the practices that has made the food supply so dangerously high in sodium is the adulteration of chicken with a salty broth.
This is yet another common trick used by poultry producers to extract money for nothing. Truly, few people would voluntarily hand over money for a bag of salt water, but when you buy many brands of conventional chicken, that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Pumping up poultry with salt water has no health benefits whatsoever, and labeling salt water-soaked chicken as “All Natural” can be very misleading as many people are becoming more health conscious shoppers.
For more information about what you need to look out for when reading labels, please review this recent article that examines a variety of misleading labeling practices.
Is Regular Commercial Salt as Dangerous as They Say it is?
The article above stresses that the practice of pumping chicken with as much as 15 percent salt water may contribute to deteriorating health, stating that salt is one of the most harmful ingredients in the food supply, promoting high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and other ailments.
This is a valid point.
Most processed foods, including adulterated chicken and restaurant meals contain very high levels of sodium from refined salt, and account for about 77 percent of Americans’ total salt intake.
Ninety percent of the money most Americans spend on food is for processed foods, and every one of these foods is loaded with unnatural highly processed salt.
However, the vilification of salt is similar to the issue of saturated fat, which is in fact a healthy type of fat, but is typically consumed in many fast foods that also contain large amounts of trans fats, which can cause a number of health problems.
So, I want to take the opportunity here to address the differences between the two types of salt, and their inherent health risks and benefits.
Natural salt, such as Himalayan salt, is in fact essential for life and play a key role in:
- allowing fluids to pass in and out of your cells
- helping carry nutrients to your cells
- helping nerve cells in your brain and body to transfer information
- various metabolic reactions in your body
- regulating blood pressure
An adequate intake of sodium is also required for optimal growth of fat, bone and muscle tissues.
Severe sodium restriction may actually negatively affect your glucose metabolism and disturb normal blood viscosity. Sodium deficiency can also induce behavioral changes such as reduced motivation, fatigue, and feelings of depression.
That said, the salt used in processed foods – including salt water plumped conventional chicken – is the highly processed variety, and NOT at all the same as the natural salt your body actually craves to perform these vital functions.
Personally I seek to avoid all processed foods whenever possible and rarely consume regular table salt. (In fact, I like the taste of natural Himalayan salt so much, I even carry it with me when I travel.)
I also avoid conventionally raised chicken for many reasons other than the fact that it may be pumped full of health harming, processed salt. I’ll review a few of those reasons below.
How Much Salt Does Your Body Need?
Normally, the homeostasis of your body fluids is corrected primarily by your kidneys, and proper renal handling of sodium is necessary for normal cardiovascular function. Given that your survival and normal physical development are dependent on adequate sodium intake and retention, the central question is – how much salt do you really need?
Previous research has shown that the worldwide average for salt intake per person is about 10 grams per day. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommend a maximum of 2.4 grams per person, which still may be more than double what your body really needs.
Meanwhile, as reported by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, just one four-ounce serving of conventional chicken can contain over half a gram of added salt.
There’s no doubt you may be consuming health harming levels of sodium if the majority of your diet consists of processed foods. If you want to find out whether you’re eating the proper amount of salt for your body, a fasting chemistry profile that shows your serum sodium level can give you a good idea, so that you can modify your diet accordingly.
Your ideal sodium level is 139, with an optimal range of 136 to 142. If it is much lower, you probably need to eat more salt; if it is higher, you’ll likely want to restrict your salt intake. Keep in mind that if you have weak adrenals you will lose sodium and need to eat more natural salt to compensate.
For more information about the health benefits and risks of unprocessed versus processed salt, please review my previous article on salt.
Why You Should Avoid Conventional Chicken
Like I said earlier, there are several other reasons for avoiding conventionally raised chicken found in most grocery stores.
One of the major problems with non-organic animal meat is that they tend to bioaccumulate toxins to a higher degree than vegetables, and conventional livestock feed is frequently laced with a variety of pesticides used in growing the crops the feed is made of.
Unlike conventional fruits and vegetables, where peeling and washing can greatly reduce the amounts of these toxins, the pesticides and drugs that these animals get exposed to during their lives can become incorporated into their very tissues, especially their fat.
While you can cut off some of it, you may still be ingesting high amounts of toxins if you consume such foods regularly.
For this reason alone, if you’re on a tight budget but want to improve your diet, shopping for organic chicken and other meats is a definitely the place to start.
When choosing chicken, you’ll want to make sure they are cage-free, or free-range, chickens.
But another important factor that sets organic chicken apart from its conventional counterpart is they will not contain antibiotics and other growth promoting drugs.
Poultry farmers regularly treat chickens and other birds with antibiotics to prevent the development of intestinal infections that might reduce the weight (and profitability) of the birds. Yet scientists have become increasingly concerned that the routine use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is a health hazard by accelerating the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could lead to a pandemic or other human health crisis.
Where Can You Find Healthy, Organic Chicken?
If you really want to be sure your food is healthy and safe, you might want to avoid grocery stores as much as possible, as conventionally-raised livestock, including chickens – with or without added salt – are not your best choice.
More and more people are buying food fresh off the farm from producers they personally know and trust, through CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), farmers’ markets, or other local food movements. When you can actually go visit the farm itself, you can see that it’s natural, fresh, and exactly as advertised.
There are plenty of organizations around to help you get started. If you live in an area with severely restricted access to any of these outlets, then, for your convenience, I also have organic, free-range, antibiotic-free chicken available in my online store.
And if you are concerned that organic, free-range poultry and other natural foods are too expensive, please be sure to read Dr. Colleen Huber's excellent article on replacing your processed, conventional foods with organics without spending more.