Ask Dave: Air Chilled Chicken

Posted on July 3, 2011 by


Dear Dave,

On a recent trip to my local market I saw a substantial price difference between the ‘air-chilled’ and the ‘regular’ chicken.  The clerk said that the air chilled is better because it doesn’t contain extra fluid – so you aren’t paying for the extra weight.  Do they inject the chickens with extra water, and should I pay the extra money for ‘air-chilled’ chicken?

Elizabeth, New Mexico

Hello Elizabeth,

No to the first question, they do not inject fluid, unless it specifically states ‘flavor solution added’, with a percentage of the weight.  The extra fluid from non air-chilled birds is absorbed from the cooling liquid they sit in as a final stage of processing;  a large scale producer heavily chlorinates the water and the carcasses are not handled with care.  Broken skin due to rough handling allows more of the toxic chlorine solution to saturate the tissues.  This adds weight and toxicity to the bird, and the fluid retained is noted on the packaging!  ‘Up to 7% total volume may be retained fluid’ means you are buying up to 7% chlorinated filth water to serve with the chicken and sweet potatoes.

YES – I do suggest buying air chilled chicken – unless the processing is small-scale and you trust the grower.  I have first hand experience here; I used to raise & process pastured poultry.  For cooling the chickens we would fill a tub with fresh iced well water and submerge the carcasses until they were fully cooled.  If the water was dirty, we’d change it .  A rinse under fresh water was the final step.

In addition to the ‘yuck’ factor, air chilled birds are more tender and taste better; their natural juices are never diluted by osmosis due to sitting in solution.

How can you tell what you are buying?  The package will state if the birds are air chilled but will only state the percentage of fluid possibly retained if it is water chilled.

Currently Chilling in the Wyoming Mountain Air,

David Cohen

Posted in: Ask Dave