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Jan 9, 2009 03:20 AM

Why is pork sold as 'seasoned pork' in Toronto supermarkets?

I've noticed this identification over the past few years in our supermarkets. I don't think that the 'seasoning' is identified. What is it and why is it sold this way? Thanks.

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  1. I asked the butcher at Loblaws once about the same thing; he told me that it was just salt but they had to add the word 'seasoning' because it wasn't just the unadultered pork.

    Depends where you buy it from, but my family and I have noticed that we feel kind of bloated, as you sometimes feel after consuming alot of sodium/salt after we consume it. I've gone to just purchasing it at a real butcher now when I can.

    1. "Seasoned" means brined, with generally no actual seasonings besides salt. If you look at the ingredients, the list will probably read something like, "pork, water, sodium phosphate, salt." The brining does two things - it increases the sale weight because the meat is now pumped full of water, and it makes it all but impossible for your pork chops to turn out dry. It also makes it much harder to properly brown/roast/etc. the meat. They do this with chicken sometimes, too - usually with the frozen parts like boneless, skinless breasts or thighs. I had a package of frozen chicken breasts once that was so overly "seasoned" that they had pretty much lost any qualities that made them resemble meat in any way. Since they were so cheap, I had stocked up, and then found myself saddled with three bags of "chicken" that had the flavor and texture of kitchen sponges.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Wahooty

        Maybe you should take a look at the Home Cooking Board where brining is the number one method of improving the quality of pork and chicken.

        1. re: mexivilla

          I'm a big fan of brining...when the brine includes flavor components in addition to salt and isn't done to the point that the meat no longer has any meat-like texture. Part of the problem with buying this "seasoned" meat is that it is already so thoroughly waterlogged that my brines and marinades have very little effectiveness. Can I make a juicy broiled pork chop with very little thought? Absolutely. Can I make a pan-fried pork chop with a nice crusty brown exterior? Considerably more difficult. I buy seasoned pork and chicken all the time, because my closest grocery store doesn't seem to carry anything else and I don't have the budget to buy all of my meat at the nicer butcher shops. And while some people automatically brine every piece of pork they buy anyway, they probably choose to do it a LITTLE differently than Maple Leaf Farms does.

          1. re: Wahooty

            Wahooty I steadfastly avoid sodium phosphate. That isn't seasoning. That's a Bounce sheet for your food. I'm sure you know this though...

            Anyway, certainly there must be a real butcher in your neighbourhood. That is to say family run, nothing fancy. It's these boutique butchers that have the boutique prices. Perhaps we can help you find a normal one if you care to share shopping borders.

            1. re: Googs

              Agree. Even Costco avoids "bloat-pac" treatment of its meats. Spied some cheapo "seasoned" pork tenderloins at Loblaws yesterday that could probably be squeezed from the wrapper like Colgate.

      2. I asked the butcher at a Loblaws with a decent meat department a couple years ago. I understood that most of the mainstream grocery store pork that is sold today is so lean that it would be very dry if it wasn't seasoned aka brined. As other posters have mentioned, the seasoning is just salt- no herbs or spices.

        1 Reply
        1. re: phoenikia

          The process of seasoning meat in the industry is simply to add weight to the product and shelve life. Salt extends shelve life considerably as bacteria has a very hard time forming on a salted product. The biggest reason for seasoning, adding weight to the product. Proteins have gone up in price dramatically over the years which makes people adverse to buying it when it is really expensive which means you cannot sell it for as much as it costs to make a profit. If you season it (a process that is done in a vacuum tumbler) you add about 8% to the overall weight of the product and the cost other than the machinery (which most companies already had) guessed it free. Water costs nothing, you get it from a tap. Most butcher shops do not season their meat unless they are putting a flavoured brine into the mix. This is also part of the reason why butcher shop meat is more costly than a seasoned meat you purchase at a grocery store. Always purchase unseasoned meat if you can, it's better for you (no added salt) and if you just pay attention to what you are doing you will always get a nice juicy piece of meat.

        2. In the US they call this "enhanced" meat. Sure. Several people have posted various assumptions, and most of these are correct.

          The pork is so lean that it is guaranteed to be tasteless, tough, and dry. The processor injects a brine that saturates the meat to the legal (wink, nudge) limit. The phosphate helps the meat absorb, and retain, the water. The meat remains juicy when cooked, but lacks either the texture or the taste of the natural meat. You pay for the added water, plus a price premium beyond the added weight because of the "enhancement". It is difficult to brown meat that has endured this treatment.

          Brining isn't inherently bad, providing it is appropriately controlled. Some mass market brined foods represent improvements over their mass market competition (Butterball brand turkeys, for example). Cured meats are often brined, and can be delicious. However, the delicious stuff has carefully considered seasonings and curing times. Improper brining does very weird things to taste and texture. Brining solely to make overly lean meat sort of edible seldom considers taste. Some meats are, indeed, genuinely "seasoned" but, as Wahooty notes, they don't necessarily resemble the meat specified on the label.

          Feeling bloated is not due to imagination. Many people find that foods with added sodium phosphate cause them to belch for hours afterward.