the water in your meat

what is plumping?

Think your 'enhanced' meat is better than the rest? Think again - meat producers are giving you a little 'extra' in the form of water.


While the practice of 'enhancing', 'injecting' or 'plumping' has been around since the 1970s, particularly in the chicken industry, it is becoming a subject of concern in recent years. While many believe injecting meat with salt water helps give the product some added juiciness, there are some unpleasant truths about this practice.

enhanced?

what 'injected', 'enhanced' 'plumped' and 'brined' really means

The practice of injecting meat with saltwater has been around for many years but only recently have consumers become savvy to what it is and why it is done. While brining is a method of preparing meat before cooking, the problem comes in when producers do so without the knowledge of consumers. Meat producers will often cite the practice as ensuring meat stays juicy and flavourful during cooking but the truth is that most do it as a means of increasing the weight of the meat, thus being able to charge more for less product.

The negatives

why you should be worried about injected meat

Besides the fact that you are paying extra for saltwater that doesn't actually enhance the meat you're eating, there are some negative health effects associated with injected meat. Firstly, since the product is being injected with a great deal of salt, this often causes consumers to far exceed their recommended daily intake of sodium (between 1500mg - 2300mg). Shockingly, a 100g piece of injected beef can contain up to 1800mg of salt. This is particularly worrisome in a country that has exceptionally high rates of hypertension - a condition that can be curbed by reducing salt intake.

Another issue is that the needles used to inject the liquids can push the bacteria on the surface of the meat further into the meat where it won’t necessarily be killed during the cooking process. Bacteria, such as E.coli, are often found on the surface of the meat and can cause severe illness if not prepared correctly. This leads to injected meat often being treated with other chemicals.

Check it out

how to know if your meat has been injected or 'enhanced'

While chicken producers in South Africa are required by law to label whether products have been injected with saltwater, the beef industry has no such regulations in place. Look for a small piece of text which may read “Contains up to 15% broth”, “Contains a solution to enhancwe juiciness” or “Brine injected”. Note that terms such as ‘natural’, ‘fresh’ and ‘100% beef’ does not necessarily mean the meat hasn’t been plumped. If there is no specific information on the label, check if you see pink-coloured water in the bottom of refrigerated trays, it may mean the meat has been injected with water.