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Crime and the modern chicken.

It's a crime what they've done to chicken.

A roasted, skinless chicken breast gets just 19 percent of its calories from fat. The leanest steak (bottom round) gets almost 37 percent. It's numbers like these that make nutritionist recommend chicken.

But consumers are being tricked. They're not getting that advantage when they buy almost any of the new chicken products that are flooding the market.

Why? In the stampede to cash-in on chicken's growing popularity, food manufacturers have taken a decent, low-fat food and (surprise! surprise!) loaded it with fat and salt.

The result: chicken that's fattier than steak, "breast chunks" that are greasier than McNuggets ... and only four of more than 50 chicken products that merit a "Best Bite."


The best of the chicken products are marinated, ready-to-cook, skinless, boneless chicken breasts by Tyson. Hormel's Chicken by [former Miss America Phyllis] George might be as good, but we couldn't tell: the company wouldn't give us any sodium information.

That's a pity, because three of its flavors (Lemon Herb, Mesquite Barbecue, and Teriyaki) get fewer than 25 percent of their calories from fat. They tasted great and were in the running for Best Bite awards ... until we ran up against the sodium wall.

(Chicken producers don't have to list sodium on their labels because the Department of Agriculture, which regulates poultry and meat, doesn't require it. Non-meat products are controlled by the Food and Drug Administration, which does require sodium, at least on foods that carry nutrition labels.)

No problem. "If you have any questions or comments, please call 1-800-523-4635," reads the invitation on Chicken by George's box. But when we did, we were told that no sodium numbers were available.

(You might want to give Phyllis a call and tell here that not giving consumers sodium information isn't nice.)

We did get sodium figures for Tyson's (frozen) marinated chicken breasts, and some of them were quite respectable. A small, 3.8-ounce serving of its Teriyaki or Lemon Pepper has less than 300 mg of sodium, and its Italian has 430 mg.

Fat information on those three products looked even better. At 2 grams of fat per serving and 15 percent or less of calories from fat, each earned a Best Bite award. So did the Barbecue Breast, which has 400 mg of sodium and 3 grams of fat (23 percent of calories) in a 3.8-ounce serving.

You might have trouble finding the Tyson marinated breasts, though. (We never did.) A company spokesperson said that sales have been disappointing, and that they're not widely available. "I guess they were ahead of their time," she sighed.


The new Perdue Done It! and Holly Farms Fully Cooked lines are chicken parts with the skin and not much else. Both are roasted (Perdue's are also marinated), and can be eaten either cold or hot.

Since there's no added fat, neither we nor Holly Farms could explain why its thighs have more fat (69 percent of calories) than the average chicken analyzed by the USDA (57 percent). It's possible that Holly raises fatty chickens ... or that someone's numbers are wrong.

Holly Farms' breasts are also fattier (45 percent of calories) than the USDA's (36 percent), but that could be because Holly includes the fattier backs and ribs.

Neither company would give us sodium information, but when we tasted Holly Farms' roasted breast, it seemed far less salty than all but the lowest-sodium luncheon meats. So, remove the skin and you've got a good no-nitrite, tasty sandwich filler.


Chicken Almondine, Chicken with Shrimp and Crabmeat - they might sound like great alternatives to pork chops, but the cheese, bacon, and buttery sauces in these upscale-sounding entrees means they're (you guessed it) dripping with fat and full of sodium.

Maple Leaf Farms Chicken Kiev, with 70 percent of its calories from fat, was the greasiest of the 50 + products we looked at. Its almost 8 teaspoons of fat in a five-ounce serving is more than you'd get in a 10 3/4-ounce Swanson Salisbury Steak Dinner.

And, when we adjusted all serving sizes to five ounces (a typical serving), we couldn't find a single entree with less than 500 mg of sodium.


Blame it on McDonald's. The success of its McNuggets has spawned a generation of imitators.

Some of these "nuggets" are made with ground chicken - usually with the skin. (If the ingredient list just says "chicken," you're probably getting some skin. If it says "chicken meat," there's no skin.)

The ground chicken also goes into products with names like "patties" and "rondelets". They're breaded, cooked (usually deep fried), and then frozen. As much as 30 percent of their total weight can be breading.

And watch out for those names: A tiny, 2.6-ounce serving of Tyson's "Breast Patties" may sound low-fat, but they get more than 60 percent of their calories from fat.

Other products - usually called "tenders" or "fillets" - are made from whole pieces of skinless and boneless chicken that have been breaded, (probably) deep-fried, and frozen. (Don't assume that "tenders" are made from the juicy, soft tenderloin meat unless the label says so.)

Because they're skinless, the tenders and fillets aren't as greasy as the nuggets, which start at 51 percent of calories from fat, and bloat up to 66 percent. In fact all of the nuggets we looked at have more fat than McDonald's McNuggets.

Lorraine Jones helped compile information for this article.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:new chicken products loaded with fat & sodium
Author:Schmidt, Stephen
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:May 1, 1990
Previous Article:The changing American diet.
Next Article:Is it safe?

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