Farm Beat: 'Plumped' poultry fight advances

jholland@modbee.comMay 3, 2013 

Tyson labels 1

Tyson labels some of its chicken ÒnaturalÓ even though it is packed with salt and chicken broth. That draws the ire of Foster Farms and several other poultry companies.

JOHN HOLLAND 010308 — Modesto Bee Buy Photo

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textJohn Holland
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Agriculture, Turlock; local news editor on Sundays
    Bio: John Holland has been a reporter at The Bee for 12 years. He has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and previously worked at the Union Democrat in Sonora and the Visalia Times-Delta.
    Recent stories written by John
    E-mail: jholland@modbee.com

The battle over "plumped" poultry — fresh chicken and turkey injected with saltwater and other substances — has moved to the state Capitol.

The California Poultry Federation, based in Modesto, is backing a bill that would forbid these products in public schools and state-owned buildings.

The bill is a strike at out-of-state producers that make substantial use of plumping. Some California poultry has added salt and other ingredients in marinades, but the federation points out that they are not plumped.

The group also has been trying to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to require prominent display of plumping ingredients on labels.

"Parents, students and consumers know that potato chips have plenty of salt," federation President Bill Mattos said by email Thursday. "But when they buy fresh chicken, they don't expect to be consuming the same amount of salt in one breast as they do in a bag of potato chips."

The measure, Assembly Bill 682, was introduced by Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier. It had its first hearing Wednesday before the Accountability and Administrative Review Committee.

Mattos testified at the hearing, as did students from Windward School in Los Angeles, who have made a project out of getting the bill passed.

It defines plumping as "the injection of saltwater, chicken stock, seaweed extract or some combination thereof into the poultry, to increase its weight and price." The ban would apply to places such as prisons, hospitals and parks owned by the state.

Producers of plumped poultry, such as Tyson and Pilgrims Pride, contend that the process uses natural ingredients and provides taste and texture that consumers like.

Also on the poultry beat:

The federation presented its annual Pioneer Award to Squab Producers of California, based in Modesto.

The grower-owned cooperative off Crows Landing Road is the nation's largest processor of the young pigeons and also does other specialty poultry. It was founded in the Bay Area in 1943 and moved to Modesto in 1983.

Have an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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