The other day, while tidying up my personal effects, I came across a copy of a letter to Waitemata District Health, my employers at the time the letter was written, in the late 80s. It was about a statement I had made on the radio concerning the practice of massaging meat. I had announced a sampling programme to determine the extent of the problem, as evidence we had suggested the practice was widespread. The interviewer had suggested that from what I had said so far, the practice could be a multi-million dollar fraud by the meat industry around the country. I had agreed though I qualified the statement as being relevant to certain practitioners, rather than the industry as a whole. There were some cowboys who were unscrupulous. Much to the concern of my employers, the Auckland Meat Retail Association took umbrage. They threatened a defamation suit, which had my employers very concerned. To my rescue came a charming gentleman from the Beef and Lamb Marketing Board, a Mr Lamb as it happens, who met with me and reviewed the information I had. I showed him how massaging – the practice of adding water (usually with certain salts and sugars) – could increase the weight of meat and poultry by as much as 100% or more. I also pointed out that if the product is properly labelled as a manufactured meat, the practice was not necessarily unlawful. Tegel for example get away with it by labelling their frozen chicken pieces (in small print) as containing “marinade”. Their turkey has “basting”.
Mr Lamb was convinced, and called the dogs off. However my planned sampling programme did not go ahead. My bosses were nervous. The Ministry did not back me up. Shortly after that we switched our focus from compliance and safety to just safety. “What is the risk?” we asked, meaning public health risk. Economic risk was no longer our prime concern. Fair enough, we were the health people. But someone should be watching out for the ripoffs.
Massaging and pumping have been around a while. Corned beef is pumped, not only to get the salts into the middle of the meat, but to allow the muscle fibres to take up water and plump up. Inevitably this increases the weight of the product. The industry discovered that massaging worked with other meat too, and also discovered that salts and additives ensured the water remained bound in the muscle tissue during normal cooking. In moderate amounts, I see little harm in it. A marginal increase in profit for the sellers, juicy plump cuts of meat for the customer.
But it appears they got greedy. Who has not had the problem of bacon producing so much liquid that it can’t be fried properly? Low cost bacon ends up being boiled in the liquid that comes out of it. My corned beef shrinks to half its original size. My chicken breasts too. Even roasts shrink far more than they should.
Which brings me to my recent purchase.
Take a look at this: (click to enlarge)
Note the price per Kg. A litre of water, added to the meat, becomes worth $20. That is even more than bottled water.
They don’t even bother to ensure it is all sequestered in the muscle fibres. look at it sloshing around in the tray!
No wonder they can afford to “discount” the product, and make you think you have bought a bargain.
This was from Pak n Save. “Everything we do, we do to make a profit”. But they are not the only ones. A quick check around Coundown, new World and Woolworths gave me indications they are all doing it.
Ripping us off.
And has anyone noticed that toilet rolls are getting smaller? Despite being fluffed up and textured, there are less wipes per roll these days…