Call me naive. I knew that chicken from commercial farms were raised in what I would consider less than ideal conditions. But I never realized that some chicken farmers engage in the practice of plumping their chickens for the sole purpose of increasing profits.
What is PLUMPING?: The practice of injecting saltwater, chicken stock, seaweed extract or some combination thereof into chicken to increase its weight and price, meaning that when you buy a package of chicken you can be spending 15 percent more on salt water. More importantly, a plumped chicken has up to 700 percent more sodium than a chicken that hasn't been plumped. The result: hundreds of thousands of consumers are ponying up extra cash (about $1.50 per package of chicken) to unwittingly feed themselves and their families a dangerously unhealthy amount of salt.
The labels on saltwater-infused meats typically say "enhanced with up to 15 percent chicken broth." They can also say "all natural" if ingredients in the solution meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture definition of natural, says Bryn M. Burkard, a public affairs specialist with the agency's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The USDA is under pressure from Congress and even some in the poultry industry to tighten the rules on how chicken is labeled, and a USDA spokeswoman says the agency is determining its next steps. Meanwhile, to avoid paying chicken prices for salt water, you'll need to read labels. Yet another reason to go organic.