Would it shock you to hear that most chicken in the US is soaked in chlorine? This is happening all over the country and the primary method used to reduce contamination from bacteria in the country. As a result, other countries throughout the world have banned the import of US chicken. Chlorine washed chicken is a potentially deadly practice that could be making many of us sick.
Each year salmonella and campylobacter from chicken infect about 3.4 million Americans and kill 500 according to Consumer Reports. These and other bacteria are extremely dangerous if not treated so it’s necessary that companies have protocols to do what they can to minimize contamination. When they look for a process to “clean” the chickens they have to factor is cost and time which is why so many companies use the chlorine wash process. In this process, chickens are submerged in chlorinated water and left to soak. This kills some of the bacteria but it also allows bacteria from one chicken to contaminate other chicken. It also allows the chickens to absorb the water they are soaking in. This means that not only are you paying for a lot of water in your chicken, changing the flavor and texture of the chicken, but that water absorb also has chlorine in it. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is at a stalemate because of this as the process of chlorine washing chicken has been banned throughout Europe for many years.
There are alternatives to cleaning chicken. The use of ozone to decontaminate poultry is used by some companies. 2% lauric acid, 1% potassium hydroxide and simply increasing washing time have also shown potential as alternatives to chlorine baths. Another process, air-chilled, has been used in Europe for decades. It comes at a higher cost but the benefits include
Chicken is unable to absorb chlorine
No potential for cross contamination since the chickens never come in contact with each other
Water isn’t absorb into the chicken like in the chlorine wash so you pay for more chicken and less water
Improved taste and texture
Shortened cooking time
Consumer Reports tested several types of chicken, including both air-chilled and chlorine washed. Among the brands tested were Perdue, Tyson, Foster Farms, Bell & Evans, Kroger Value, Market Pantry, Mary’s, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans and Whole Foods as well as store brands. Air-chilled brands were found to be especially clean while Perdue ranked highest among chlorine washed brands. Tyson and Foster Farms ranked as the most contaminated brands.
So where can you find air-chilled chicken? I contacted several local grocery stores in my search. Most of the larger stores did not carry air chilled chicken including Stop and Shop, Price Chopper and Shop Rite. But to my surprise, there were a few places that did carry it.
Whole Foods All locations carry air-chilled chicken including breasts, thighs, wings and whole birds. They also prohibit the use of antibiotics. Bell & Evans is one of the brands they carry which was in the Consumer Reports test.
Big Y All of their locations carry air-chilled but some of their locations more than others so you may want to call ahead.
La Bonnes This is a smaller grocery store with a few locations throughout Connecticut. They carry Bell & Evans. Click here for locations.
Bell & Evans is one of the more popular brands and comes highly recommended. They do not offer coupons on their fresh chicken but you can email them to request coupons for their frozen products. Click here to request your coupons. Make sure to include your name and mailing address.