The USDA requires that processed chickens be chilled to at least 40 degrees within four hours of killing. Within our industry there are two accepted ways to do this – using air or using water. Most processors use the latter method, cooling their chickens in large communal vats of ice cold chlorinated water and then injecting them with a salted water solution. But at Joyce Farms, we choose to air chill all our Heritage Poultry, and we inject them with nothing. Here’s why.
When chickens are water chilled, they absorb some of the water they’re placed in and then they’re injected with more water, so when you buy water-chilled chicken, part of what you’re paying for is water.
Some estimates say that, on average, water is actually 8% of the chicken’s body weight when it’s sold. But when you buy air-chilled chicken, all you’re paying for is chicken.
Because the birds aren’t subjected to the chlorine or added salt and water that is absorbed by the birds in the industrial chilling tanks, top chefs agree that air chilling preserves the true flavor of the birds.
The water in water-chilled chicken evaporates as it cooks, creating shrunken, rubbery chicken, especially when it’s grilled or barbecued. Further, air-chilled chicken cooks faster, absorbs marinades and seasonings much better, and has a crispier skin after cooking.
Air-chilled chickens are cooled individually, while water-chilled chickens are dunked in a communal pool. With air chilling there is much less chance for bacteria to spread among chickens.
In fact, a University of Nebraska study found that air-chilled chicken contains 80% less bacteria than water-chilled chicken.
In the last few years we’ve seen major droughts in both the southeastern and western United States. In those conditions, every drop of water becomes precious. According to one expert, if the 9 billion water-chilled chickens processed annually were air chilled instead, 4.5 billion gallons of water would be saved.
There you have it. Our goal is to offer our customers the best poultry in the world, and we believe air chilling contributes to achieving that. And experts agree. Not long ago the website TheSoftLanding.com looked at air-chilled chicken vs. water-chilled chicken and declared Joyce Farms air-chilled, heritage Poulet Rouge™ chicken to be the best on the market!