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Why does chicken smell like bleach these days?

  • m

I am just about going to give up on chicken. It seems like every brand I try these days has a smell of chlorine bleach about it when I open it. I don't know if I am particularly sensitive to this, but even after I rinse the bird I can still smell it, and it permeates the meat in my opinion. The taste has just about put me off chicken. I have tried several brands (just last night a Purdue roaster) and it seems to be everywhere.
I suppose processors are using a chlorine bath these days? Am I going to have to start raising chickens myself to get away from this?

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  1. I don't know where you are but in the Pacific NW we have some brands that don't seem to have that. We have Ranger free range and Diestel which (I think) is organic. Of course a little more cost, but great flavor. And the excess price certainly must be lower than fencing and chicken feed <g>

    1. Your profile doesn't say where you live, Missy, but here in the KC area, there are several options for locally raised and processed birds. Here's one example: http://www.goodnatured.net/products/p... Have you researched that possibility in your area? I pay more for these birds, but the flavor is that much better, too.

      1. we got a nice lean organic chicken for christmas dinner at harris teeter in arlington, va.

        1. I am far from being a crunchy, organic hippie but I have to agree that mass-produced meat leaves something to be desired. You might try a live poultry shop to avoid the smell. Halal chicken is also much better, in my opinion, as it is raised humanely and not subject to the same indignities as a mass-produced bird.

          10 Replies
          1. re: JungMann

            Those are all good ideas-I live out in Winchester Va, about 80 NW of Washington DC. It's very small-town and our grocery options are limited. The nearest halal place is about 50 miles east. But there is a farm nearby that raises free-range turkeys (I had one for Thanksgiving last year and it was tough as an old boot). Maybe they have chickens. I used to raise them for meat and eggs, way back in the Mother Earth News days, and both were heavenly. Unfortunately they got back at me for killing them by giving me histoplamosis!

            1. re: Missy

              missy, doesn't your local safeway or giant carry organic chicken?
              or this place?:
              Valley Farm Natural Foods
              1149 Berryville Ave.
              Winchester, VA 22601
              (540) 722-6525

              1. re: alkapal

                We don't have either safeway or Giant-it's Food Lion (which seems the words) or Martin's
                I'm not sure about the Natural Food store-in the past I don't think they carried meat but it's been years since I went in there. I'll look though!

                1. re: Missy

                  gosh, the reason i mentioned them is that i googled both major stores and they had winchester stores listed....
                  2207 Valley Ave
                  Winchester, VA 22601
                  (540) 662-1750

                  Giant Food
                  400 Gateway Dr, Winchester - (540) 535-0598

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Sorry Alkapal-We do have aa Safeway but I never shop there-it's quite small. And the Giant food stores we have are Martins-a PA chain that Giant acquired a few years ago. They are better than Food Lion but not as good as a big city Giant.

                    1. re: Missy

                      any luck yet in getting a good chicken?

                  2. re: Missy

                    You may also want to see if your Natural foods Market orders meat for people. My local market had a no meat on the shelves policy for years, but would order it upon request. Now, we have a small meat selection in the back.

                2. re: Missy

                  Are you close to a Trader Joes?? They have Rabushkins Kosher Chicken which won the taste test at Cooks Illustrated...

                  1. re: Missy

                    Missy, there are a few large organic farms and some smaller local farms who have free range or organic chickens and eggs available in the area. We used to live in The Plains and did not have to go that far afield to find some terrific produce as well. In Warrenton there is a farmers market where you could buy meats, poultry, smoked/prepared foods, etc. and I know that some of those producers also sold their goods other markets in the area. Asking around we actually found two neighboring farms in the Plains that sold produce, eggs, and the occasional suckling pig directly to consumers. Sorry I don't have contact info to hand.

                    1. re: vonwotan

                      Organic or not....still washed with chlorine....any commerical poultry processing plant will use chlorine in their wash water.....so unless you have access to your own chickens that you butcher yourself....you are out of luck....

                3. In the past I got a whiff of that smell in pre packaged chicken and now only buy chicken at one of the local farmer's markets. I guess the bleach smell could be anything from the feed big commercial processors use to dye which I think some use to make the chicken look like they think buyers want it to look.

                  The chicken I get at the farmer's market is a completely different color than the stuff at the grocery. It's more of a tan to light brown rather than bright yellow and it actually has flavor.

                  As an aside, if I raised chickens myself, I could probably never eat them.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Den

                    my organic chicken is light tan -- none of that yellow color or stinky "chicken" odor. much, much less fat!

                    1. re: Den

                      The yellow color comes from marigold in the feed, not actual dye. I don't know why Perdue thinks people want their chicken yellow though!

                    2. Packaged chicken around here (SF Bay Area) is pretty gross, but the chicken I get from stores with actual butchers seems better (fresher, maybe?) In any event, even though I can't get officially kosher chicken around here, I kosher all the chicken we eat, which seems to help the flavor. It might just be the salt, or maybe it's all in my head, since I grew up eating kosher chicken.

                      1. ITA with everyone else that you should stay away from the mass marketers. If organic or local is not an option, try to find Bell & Evans or Maverick Ranch--expensive but worth it.

                        I also like Millers Amish Country chicken. They have decent flavor, but not sure how large their distribution area is.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: coney with everything

                          You smell chlorine because it's used to wash the carcases and kill the bugs. Nothing to do with feed, beeing organinc, Kosher/Halal, etc.....if you process poultry commercially you use it. True there are "other" alternatives to chlorine but at this point in time its the cheapest and best. I'm sure that if you smell it on the chicken after at least a week (I'm guessing) of beeing in the package (post production) they must use hudge amounts in the 50 ppm+ range.

                          1. re: Pollo

                            I once cooked skate wings that tasted like this, haven't been able to eat them since (>10 years later). After a bit of Google surfing I'm confused as to whether this is due to "washing", degradation, natural physiology, or something else. (I did see that other people had this problem with skate, which I found reassuring.)

                            1. re: steinpilz

                              In Skate (or other fish) it tends to be nitrogen compounds that degrade dorning cooking and can give you off flavors. However, I know for a fact that fish mongers used to (and maybe still do?) "revive" old fish by washing in chlorinated water....very common practice....

                              1. re: steinpilz

                                Skate and shark, and probably some other fish, develop an ammonia smell/taste (from a natural body process) very quickly after being caught.

                                1. re: embee

                                  It's the way their waste disposal (pee) system is set up...

                                2. re: steinpilz

                                  I always smell the skate before I buy it. The ammonia smell means that it's on the road to going off, if not already having arrived. Skate shouldn't smell fishy or of ammonia.

                            2. When I first moved to Toronto in 1970, virtually all supermarket chicken had a grayish white colour, was saturated with water, and had a distinct smell of chlorine.

                              This is seldom true today except with bargain basement brands. Many chickens now seem to be air chilled (which may be relevant). The colour is different from brand to brand, but seldom that grayish white.They don't drip and they don't smell of chlorine.

                              I've never cooked a kosher chicken that had that smell.

                              1. It doesn't have to be organic and free range chicken (though, that would be best), but find a good butcher. They still exist. Develope a relationship with him. He'll give you all sorts of good things, happily do special orders, and give you good advice. My local guy (family business since around 1976) is great, and his chicken (which I'm preparing this evening) smells of, I don't know... chicken.

                                1. I wouldn't doubt that Purdue or the larger chicken processing plants rinse their chicken with a chlorine solution after all the scare with E.coli and salmonella. I would go with kosher chicken if you can find a kosher market. But every chicken that I buy, even from a big supermarket, I always brine it anyway. Wash the chicken with clean water, and let it sit in a mild brine solution for an hour or less. Salt will season the chicken. But don't oversalt the brine or let it sit in it too long. Chicken will be too salty.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: toyo2960

                                    It's because of E. coli and Salmonella that ALL commercially processed chicken (including Kosher) gets the chlorine wash....only way to kill the bugs....

                                  2. I use Rockies, Rangers, or the Smart Chicken they sell now at my Coop and don't notice the smell too much but I always "kosher" the chicken anyway similar to the directions on the Morton kosher salt box. I just put it in a bowl and liberally sprinkle on the salt to coat all sides and let it sit for 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour then rinse it well in cold water. It just seems cleaner to me and I think it acts as a quick cure that leaves the meat juicier when cooked, particlularly boneless, skinless breasts. I made the mistake a couple of months ago of buying a rotisserie chicken at Costco when I was pressed for time. Dreadful chemical taste. Couldn't eat it. They use Foster Farms.

                                    1. never encountered this issue, and we eat alot of chcken.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: swsidejim

                                        Us too, although my tap water is another story.

                                      2. Missy....I too am ready to give up. It started with Tyson natural whole chicken. It smells and tastes like whatever they put into bagged lettuce. I tried to switch over to another brand, (Readington) even called the company just today and asked them if they are putting the same thing in the processed chicken as they do in the lettuce. The other brand was supposed to be organic. I asked them if it was maybe the plastic in the wrapping. They said they have not done anything different. Maybe they have just increased product when they wash them..which by the way they do use some sort of wash. It is an awful smell, inside and out and does permeate throughout the meat. I had to eat tuna fish tonight instead.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: epc

                                          Well epc et al., I also have noticed this with mass market birds. Generally speaking if it is packaged in frozen liquid I try to avoid, and I try to get air chilled. Air chilled, IMO, are better. I like to use Bell & Evans and whole foods ones since they are available at a decent price in PA. Hopefully one day you'd be able to get an air chilled bird for .90 cents / lb like the supermarket birds, but w/e.

                                          It seems that the chlorine bath is the culprit here (naturally). I have been cooking with supermarket birds for past weeks as I am far far away from home and was curious (and lazy), and yeah it's got this eerie chlorine tinged smell when defrosted. I've still gotten good results though.


                                          If you have to use one of these chlorine logged birdies, I suggest getting one that is between 2.75-3.75 lb (seems to be a good fat/meat ratio for roasting) and using a sort of dry brine like the zuni cafe method seems to like. This should help. I usually do 12-36 hours in the fridge, but if you can the recipe's longer interval works great! Doing this has held me over, plus I can take advantage of those absurd market sales on whole chickens that these chlorine birds often have (.75 cents/lb for a 3lb bird? good for trying out new recipes)

                                          1. re: DukeOfSuffolk

                                            I am so glad I found these posts! I noticed a couple years back that "big chain grocery store" milk started having a bleach smell. Then I noticed the same thing in packaged "big brand" chicken and turkey. The smell is really strong to me. I buy milk now at Target, luckily their milk is still cheap enough that I don't have to go organic. I won't buy milk at Costco or Safeway ( I live in Northern California ). I'm thinking I'm going to have to go organic with poultry products so I can eat the stuff again. Bleach smell - total turn off. It's definately changing my purchasing habits (big dairy and poultry, I hope you're listening)

                                        2. I am with you! I am ready to quit eating chicken. I smell the chlorine as soon as I open the package. I smell it after soaking the chicken in salt water and cleaning thoroughly. I taste the chlorine after cooking my chicken and when I eat out at restaurants. I

                                          1. Go vegan, better for you, the planet and the chickens.

                                            1. It is so good to hear other people have had this experience with chicken. I am amazed at the number of people who don't even taste it. I have been purchasing Bell Evans chickens which are air chilled. I don't smell or taste the chlorine in that brand. I recently bought some Halal chicken and that also was very fresh and no bleach.

                                              1. It is so good to hear other people have had this experience with chicken. I am amazed at the number of people who don't even taste it. I have been purchasing Bell Evans chickens which are air chilled. I don't smell or taste the chlorine in that brand. I recently bought some Halal chicken and that also was very fresh and no bleach. Try Bell Evans and let me know what you think.
                                                Forgot to tell you Bell Evans chicken is in Whole Foods.

                                                1. Here's a brief summary on the use of chlorine to sanitize chicken: