Have you ever wondered why there is a variation in the visual appearance of different chicken brands in the market? Or why some chicken items have water purge before cooking? Or why some chicken items shrink in size after they have been cooked?
These appearance variations can be a result of:
1. Types of grains in the feed diet the chickens are consuming. For example, a mainly corn fed diet can result in a yellower tinge to the outer epidermal layer of chicken skin. The origin and colour variation in corn grains can also cause a colour variance. If the chicken feed diet consists mainly of wheat, the skin will be paler in appearance. At Cericola Farms we work with Certified chicken feed nutritionists and feed mills to prepare the most natural and balanced diet for our chickens.
2. Water temperature in the de-feathering process can impact the chicken skin appearance. If the water temperature is too hot, it can result in the removal of the outer epidermal skin layer. The retention of the top epidermal layer of chicken skin has several benefits, including:
- Acts as a barrier to protect the chicken meat from external contamination during the production processes.
- Acts as a barrier to maintain the natural juices in the meat so that they are not washed away.
- Prevents the meat from absorbing water which can purge out before/after cooking.
There are two main methods used to chill chicken during processing, Water Chilling and Air Chilling.
The water chill method uses an ice cold, chlorinated water bath to chill the chickens.
The benefits: This method allows the producer to quickly chill the chicken products and increase the weight of the chicken products with added water.
The disadvantages: During the water chilling process, the majority of the disadvantages are directly related to the consumer. With the high temperature of the de-feathering process, followed by the chickens being placed in a large bath where they will remain until they have reached the desired temperature; the product is unable to maintain the outer epidermal layer resulting in absorption of approximately 6-8% water which is added weight. As consumers, when purchasing your poultry products the cost is calculated by weight per kg. The added water weight results in an increased sale price.
The appearance of the product will be plump and full, as a result of water absorption. During the cooking process this absorbed water will purge which causes a visible shrinkage and can also result in drying out of the chicken meat along with the natural moisture of the chicken.
The air chill method chills the chickens in a cold air chamber.
The disadvantages: The chicken takes longer to cool, resulting in more cost to the processor.
The benefits: Air chilled chicken maintains the natural moisture and colour of the chicken, as opposed to adding water. As such, air chilling can result in water loss. Because the outer epidermal layer is maintained. This epidermal layer also helps to prevent meat shrinkage during cooking as the skin tends to become more crispy.
There may be a slight added cost per kg when purchasing an air chilled product, however the cost is associated with the product and not additional absorbed water.
What do we prefer?
All of Cericola’s products are air chilled. We put the extra effort into ensuring our products like our naturally grain fed Organic Chicken, Animal By-Product Free Chicken and Chicken raised without the use of Antibiotics, maintain their natural characteristics throughout our process. The taste speaks for itself.
Look for a Cericola Farms Air Chilled product at your local retailer or contact us for more information, and give our recommended cooking methods a read for the perfect meal every time: How to safely cook chicken; temperature cooking guidelines