Since You Asked: Injection gives meat better look, but that's about it

Where can one purchase fresh meat products that haven't been injected with "saline phosphate" solution? The pork chops I recently cooked had been injected, and I found the meat very salty. It seems a lot of meats are "injected" these days! Thanks.

— Susan C., via e-mail

Your observation that many meats come injected with preservative solution is right on, according to our experts.

The Butcher Shop co-owner Cameron Callahan says he's noticed enhancement of pork, in particular, more and more over the past decade. The reason, he says, is to boost profits on meat.

Such solutions act almost as a coagulant for meat blood, preventing it from purging, which creates an unattractive product on the shelf that, when repackaged to improve its appearance, can lose up to 1.5 percent of weight in discarded liquid. Fresh pork, notes Callahan, has a shorter shelf life than most other meats.

More troubling, many labels don't tell consumers exactly what ingredients have been added, says Callahan, citing the verbiage "injected with up to 12 percent solution." He says he called the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an explanation and is still awaiting one.

Reading labels goes far toward avoiding this additive, but the print often is tiny, says Callahan. A better strategy is to avoid any meat that's marketed as pre-seasoned, which means you're getting a lot of salt.

Spend a minute considering the product's packaging. Anything that came to the store prepackaged, says Callahan, is more likely to be enhanced. Avoid products encased in thick, heat-sealed plastic bags or perched atop hard, plastic trays, usually black. Stores that do their own cutting and packaging use the traditional foam trays and thinner plastic wrap.

Locally, Callahan says, Sherm's Thunderbird Market, Food 4 Less, WinCo, Costco and some smaller grocers, along with The Butcher Shop, do their own cutting and packaging. Callahan says his Eagle point store boycotts enhanced meats, whether irradiated, gas-flushed, injected or all three.

"People absolutely expect not to have that."

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