I recently picked up a family pack of steaks on sale. As a rule, I shop sales – steaks were on sale – a really good sale (4lbs for $11), so I bought a big box of individually packaged, flash frozen strip steaks. However, I forgot another of my crucial food shopping rules, Read the ingredients!
It was meat, so why should I have to read the ingredients? Meat should contain MEAT and nothing else. Alas, when I thawed four beautiful slabs of beef for dinner tonight, my nose detected a smell that should not have been there. I grabbed the box and spotted the ingredient list. Sure enough. I saw the following:
"Containing up to 10% of a solution of water, less than 2% salt, sodium phosphate, dextrose, hydrolyzed corn and yeast protein (with hydrolyzed wheat gluten), sugar, garlic and onion, maltodextrin, natural and artificial flavors, natural grill flavor (from vegetable oil)"
What the heck?! Not only does my 8oz steak have 40 grams of protein, it also has 24% of my RDA of sodium! 580 milligrams of salt have already been injected into my steak. Good thing I noticed that before I seasoned it.
Now, I know many chickens and “self-basting” turkeys are packed with salt (which is why I bought the free range, organic variety this year that contained nothing but turkey) as are many “seasoned” pork loins. Many places are increasingly adding salt solutions to their meat through marinating, needle injecting, and soaking. In fact, I never buy meat from the Super Wal-Mart by my house for several reasons, one of which is because I noticed they also “enhance” most of their beef and pork with a 12% (or more) salt solution. They claim it is to create a “preferred eating experience” by making the meat more tender and flavorful. (Another reason I don’t is because somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I find something fundamentally wrong with buying raw meat in the same store where one can buy a plastic Christmas tree, fishing lures, and underwear. Oh, and I don’t buy jewelry or “intimate apparel” from Wal-Mart either – it’s wrong, just wrong). Speaking of preferred eating experiences, I actually PREFER to add my own salt to my meat or not, and I PREFER to add plain old sodium chloride – not sodium phosphate.
In my humble yet cynical opinion, the manufacturers could care less about our dining experience. Adding salt solution makes the meat heavier, thus we are actually paying more for it, and I see it as a subversive way of preserving the meat to give it a longer shelf life.
So, fellow consumers, there’s yet another reason to read your ingredient lists, know what you are buying, and buy fresh and local whenever possible.
Oh, and if someone wants to explain, “natural grill flavor,” I’m all ears.