How Chicken is Chilled Matters
What makes a chicken tender, juicy, and delicious? Of course the way it’s cooked is important—final temperature, preparation methods like brining, and the way it’s cooked all contribute to a great piece of chicken. Also crucial is the quality of the chicken you start with, and you might be surprised to learn that the way chicken is processed—more specifically: the way it’s chilled—plays a key role in the tenderness, moistness, and overall flavor of the end product. At Smart Chicken, our chilling processes (like all of the considerations that go into care and production) are aligned with quality.
In fresh chicken production, chickens must be quickly cooled to less than 40°F within a specified timeframe after sacrifice. It’s an absolutely crucial step, ensuring that the chicken is safe for consumers. The method by which fresh chicken is chilled has a dramatic impact on the overall quality of the chicken.
Many poultry producers, in efforts to save time and money, settle for a cooling process called immersion chilling, where the chickens are tumbled or pulled through a communal water bath that is typically sanitized by one or more acidic compounds. When chicken—or any meat for that matter—is soaked in a solution for an extended period of time, it begins absorbing that liquid, and there’s an undeniably detrimental effect on the meat’s taste, texture, and overall quality.
In fact, if you look closely at the label of chicken that’s been chilled via water immersion, you’ll find a statement, required by the USDA, about retained water or enhancement with a solution—a reference to the liquid absorbed during the chilling process. It’s not abnormal for these labels to affirm 8 to 12% retained water. The meat is essentially waterlogged until it eventually purges much of the absorbed liquid into the package (that’s the liquid you find in the bottom of most commodity chicken trays). In both cases, the flavor of the meat is diluted and its texture compromised.
The 100% Pure Air Chilled Difference
Air chilling—a processing method where chickens are circulated through a series of chill chambers cooled with purified cold air—yields a far superior end product. Air chilling produces the best-quality chicken, which is (and has always been) Smart Chicken’s number one goal. You’ll notice right off the bat that Smart Chicken just looks better in the package. It has better color and it isn’t soggy and swimming in liquid (which makes for a much more pleasant prep experience in the kitchen).
When it comes to taste, 100% pure air chilled Smart Chicken offers pure, undiluted flavor that cooks up more consistently and remains tender and juicy throughout the cooking process. Its texture also benefits; the exterior browns and crisps up nicely (especially with skin-on cuts and whole birds) for an unparalleled eating experience.
While Smart Chicken was the first, we’re no longer the only chicken producer using air chilling methods, but it’s important to note that not all air-chilled chicken is the same. There are key details that can streamline production and cut costs, but again, negatively impact the quality of the end product. Some producers have begun implementing air-chilling methods, but they often involve chlorinated baths or sprays, or some other form of liquid treatment. Smart Chicken is the only producer in the country that is USDA Process Verified 100% pure air chilled with no water added.
As Smart Chickens circulate individually through a series of closely monitored chill chambers, only purified cold air is used to cool the chickens, so they aren’t exposed to any chemicals, nor do they come into contact with treated water or solutions. It’s a commitment that also saves gallons upon gallons of water, which becomes increasingly important as parts of the country continue to suffer severe fresh water shortages.
Along with superior quality and taste, Smart Chicken refuses to compromise when it comes to producing a wholesome, safe product. Smart Chicken was also the first chicken producer in the country to obtain the SQF (Safe Quality Foods) Level 3 certification—the highest level of food safety in
There’s no doubt the chilling process has a huge impact on the overall quality of fresh chicken. Smart Chicken’s USDA Process Verified 100% pure air chill technology is like no other—which is one of the key reasons Smart Chicken stands out as the best-tasting, highest-quality chicken on the market.