Print Edition - 2017-11-12  |  Free the Words

You deserve better

  • The meat industry has decided to extract larger profits at the expense of your health
- MANEKA SANJAY GANDHI

Nov 12, 2017-Is the chicken you get in commercial large scale food vendors, such as in products like sandwiches, actually chicken? Perhaps not.

Subway is a group that targets health conscious folk who avoid other fast food. But is it healthy? A recent investigation by CBC Marketplace shows that the chicken used in Subway chicken sandwiches is only 42.8 percent chicken! The salad chicken, which they claim as healthy oven roasted chicken, is only 53.6 percent chicken. The rest is genetically modified cheap soy protein, known to be problematic for health. About 50 ingredients were found in the tested sandwiches, with an average of 16 ingredients in the chicken itself.

The Wildlife Forensic DNA Laboratory at Trent University conducted the tests. The so-called “chicken” from Subway’s competitors contained 85-90 percent chicken. Marinated, seasoned and processed chicken are also considered mixes. The four other chains tested included Wendy’s, McDonalds, A&W, and Tim Horton’s.

Fake meat

Food scientists say that the food chains selling meat use “restructured products”. Industry sources refer to this as pink slime, and pictures of this product leaked from factory assembly lines are available online since 2010. Restructured products, including the pink slime variety, are essentially smaller pieces of meat or ground meat. The meat is mixed with additives, chemicals, lots of Monosodium Glutamate, which is neurotoxic, and fillers like soy protein to make it last longer and taste better.

According to Fooducate, chicken paste comes from taking every bit of meat off chicken bones by passing them through a high pressure sieve. The taste is so disgusting that artificial neurotoxic flavours, like MSG and many other additives, are mixed in to make it edible. Then, colour is added. Since the slime is full of bacteria it is passed through ammonia gas to de-germ it. The slime is then used to make a wide variety of chicken-like products.

The treatment is now so sophisticated that what seems like a fresh, plump chicken breast (up to 43 percent injected water) might be only 51 percent meat! Much of this ‘plastic’ chicken goes to curry houses, Chinese restaurants and takeaways, often disguised with highly-spiced sauces and colourings.

Grocers, and supermarkets sell sausages, salamis, luncheons meats, nuggets, burgers made of this pink slime and now technology can even shape out chicken breasts and fillets that are only around 60 percent chicken. What does the rest comprise of? Extenders (corn starch, wheat flour, stale bread for instance), fillers (in low-cost burgers breadcrumbs, cassava, potato, or rice are used as fillers, often in combination with soya bean protein), water, and soluble binders. Look through the internet. You will see many advertisements for Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), said to be “the perfect meat substitute in almost any recipe that calls for ground beef or turkey.” However, TVP is rarely used by vegetarians—only people making “meat” products use it. Normally thrown away carcass parts rich in connective tissue, such as pork skin, tendons are also added and so is gelatine, resulting in a transparent goo made of melted skin and bones.

The sausage is another highly extended meat product. These sausages are sold in ‘fresh’ or frozen form and heat treated in restaurants or by the consumer directly at home. One common composition is approximately 60 percent animal tissue, 15 percent water, and 25 percent extenders and fillers. In low-cost formulations the major, or entire, part of lean meat derives from mechanically deboned chicken meat, which contains on average 20 percent fat, which goes straight to your arteries. 

When Leicestershire trading standards received a complaint from a member of the public about the quality of chicken nuggets, they decided to test 21 samples from 17 different shops, including the major supermarkets. In one-third of the samples, the label was misleading about the nugget’s meat content. One pack of nuggets contained only 16 percent meat, 30 percent less than it claimed. The trading standards officials are unable to identify the brands involved for legal reasons. Instead, they gave a warning to the worst offender. Subsequent tests recently have shown that the manufacturer has not changed its ways.

Venky’s, an Indian brand which sells processed chicken, has actually made available the meat content of its processed chicken products, The chicken franks are only 70 percent meat, the chicken lollipops 30 percent, the meat balls 60 percent, the chicken salami 55 percent, and the murg masala just 30 percent.

Disregard for religious sentiment

The thing is, once you’ve minced bits of chicken to a pulp, that pulp could be anything from anywhere. Recycled pet food, breasts injected with pig and cattle proteins, banned carcinogenic antibiotics—they’ve all been found by the authorities recently in chicken destined for processing. 

The chicken you eat may have bits and pieces of other animals in it, DNA tests specially developed by Sandford, with the public analyst laboratory in Manchester, enabled the English food standards agency to identify traces of pork proteins in samples of Dutch chicken breasts labelled halal. Six months later, Irish authorities made an even more unsettling discovery in chicken: undeclared bovine proteins. Seventeen samples from Dutch processors contained them. Some manufacturers were using a new technique—injecting so-called hydrolysed proteins. These are proteins extracted at high temperatures, or by chemical hydrolysis, from old animals or parts of animals which are of no use for food, such as skin, feathers, hide, bone and ligaments, and rather like cosmetic collagen implants, they make the flesh swell up and retain liquid.

Take the case where McDonald’s sold its customers chicken that was over a year past expiry. Shanghai Husi Food was guilty of selling chicken as much as one year past their expiry dates to McDonald’s and to Yum Brands, which owns KFC and Pizza Hut. An investigative report showed Shanghai Husi workers “picking up food from the floor and throwing it into processing machines” and discarded McNuggets were reprocessed until they passed inspection. 

This is what happens when the meat industry has decided to make even larger profits at the expense of your health. Meat is bad enough normally, but this is the worst thing you could eat. Is pink slime the best you can do for your children?

To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in, www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

Published: 12-11-2017 08:02

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