It has been reported that air-chilling is a new label
to look out for when purchasing chicken meat. According to some producers, this
method has many advantages!
Air-chilling is a common practice in Western Europe, used for about 45 years. However, this method is still fairly new in the US (introduced in 1998) where most chickens are cooled though emersion in iced water, reports Mercury News. By contrast, air-chilling cools chickens by blasting them with cold air.
Many retailers believe that there is a huge difference between the methods, any many have recently began converting/introducing this type of chilled chicken in stores.
Air-chilled chicken, which carries a retail price close to that of organic chicken, is advertised as for its safety and flavour features, as well as texture.
Because air-chilled chickens are handled separately, rather than placed together into a large vat of ice water, proponents believe these chickens are apt to harbour fewer bacteria from cross-contamination. Studies, however, have not always concurred. Supporters also believe air-chilled poultry has more flavour.
Studies compared the methods
Of about 200 chicken processing plants in the US, only a handful use the air-chill method, according to Richard Lobb, spokesman for National Chicken Council.
A USDA-sponsored study by the University of Nebraska found that 350 air-chilled chickens had about 20% less bacteria (such as salmonella and campylobacter) than the same number of water-cooled poultry. The study, however, examined only one air-chilling plant and one water-immersion plant.
In January 2008, Consumer Reports found that of 28 store-bought, air-chilled chickens, five had salmonella and 19 had campylobacter. Additionally, in an article in the Journal of Food Protection, researchers concluded that one process was not necessarily more effective than the other.
Whether it remains merely a niche product is hard to tell. However, some believe that it will not grow significantly because the vast majority of Americans are content to eat bargain-priced poultry.