Air-Chilled Chicken: A Taste of Things to Come

US - A new label may be about to hit supermarket stores after claims that air-chilled chicken has a greater taste than the usual water chilled chicken.
calendar icon 19 March 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

The air-chilling process, common in Western Europe for more than 45 years, is still fairly new in the United States. It refers to a specific method used to cool chickens after slaughtering. Most chickens in this country are processed by being immersed in ice water. By contrast, air-chilling cools chickens by blasting them with cold air.

Air vs. water? Is there really such a huge difference? According to a report from The Herald, many retailers think so. Since January, Whole Foods has been steadily converting all of its full-service meat counters in Northern California to sell only air-chilled chicken. Last week, all Bay Area Andronico's started carrying a full line of locally raised, air-chilled chicken.

San Jose meat wholesaler Bassian Farms hopes to begin selling its own brand of air-chilled chicken to restaurants this summer. And Niman Ranch, known for its sustainable and humanely raised meats, is expected to start selling an air-chilled French heritage chicken called Poulet Rouge Fermiere in April. It will be the company's first chicken product.

"I do prefer this type of chicken. Whenever I can find them, I buy them," says San Francisco food scientist Harold McGee, author of the fundamental "On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen" (Scribner, $40), who became a fan of air-chilled chicken when he lived in France.

"The basic fact that you're not adding anything extraneous to the chicken is the most important to me. If you're buying chicken, you want chicken — not chicken with ice water."

View The Herald story by clicking here.
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