A report has revealed that up to 18% of some of the chicken sold in some supermarkets isn't chicken at all. It's an ingredient added to the chicken breasts in a factory - which bulks up the weight of the breast dramatically. The process is perfect legal, and affects chicken sold in five UK shops and supermarkets.
So what is the ingredient, and is this the worst supermarket trick in the book?
WaterThe report, in the Guardian, revealed that the meat is being processed in factories, where up to 18% water is added. The process also adds phosphates, to stop the water leaking out of the chicken when it is cooked.
It is then sold as Asda, Iceland and Lidl own-brand frozen chicken - as well as Alyn Valley frozen chicken sold by Tesco and Valley Foods frozen chicken sold by Sainsbury's.
The Guardian reported that the Asda and Aldi chicken had highest percentage of water added (18%) but The Daily Mail added that per pound, the Alyn Valley chicken charges most for its water.
The supermarkets pointed out that the food is clearly labelled as having added water, and that it adds succulence to the produce. But these are those who would say that when they buy meat in a supermarket, as opposed to buying processed food, they don't expect it to have gone through a synthetic process.
Five tricks to watch forAnd it's just one of a huge number of ways you need to keep your wits about you when you go shopping. Here are five of the most annoying tricks to watch for:
1. 'Half price' deals which are not half the price of the product elsewhere. They may be half the price that was advertised by a certain number of outlets for a very specific length of time, but that's not the same thing. We really ought to have an idea of roughly what all our regular purchases cost, so we know when a deal is as good as it looks.
2. Complex weight comparisons. The bagged fresh fruit and vegetables are not always easy to compare - when one is priced for 438g and the other is for 6 tomatoes. Most of us don't have the brain space for complex mental calculations in the supermarket, so we give up and go with what we like the look of - which is always more expensive. Instead, use the scales that you will eventually find tucked away in the aisle.
3. Discounts on the aisle end. The supermarkets put special deals here because they know we slow down to turn the corner and will take them in. However, by putting one particular cheese and a specific brand of yogurt on the aisle end and telling us they are a great deal, they are removing the context we need to ensure we aren't being ripped off. The only way to tell is to leave the products there and remember the price, then when you reach the shelf of a million yogurts, you can compare the deal with the whole selection.
4. Putting bulky special offers at the front of the shop. The idea here is that by putting a 'half price' wine by the door, or massive tins of chocolates, we will be tempted to swap our basket for a trolley, which removes a major limiting factor from the shop. The only way to avoid this is to do the shop you were planning to do - with a basket - and if you really do need a half price tin of chocolates (after checking it's a good deal), go back for it at the end.
5. Eye level targets. The supermarket designers know we shop mainly by buying things at eye level - using our peripheral vision - so that's where they put the most expensive brands and lines. For everything from biscuits to cereal, if you reach for the top shelf you'll get a cheaper option. Studies have also shown that generally the bargain basement options are on the bottom shelf, so it's also worth making the effort to check down there. It's why grandparents may be the only people who could save cash by taking their grandchildren along to the supermarket to help them with the lower shelves.