Americans eat more than 20 billion pounds of poultry a year. And according to the California Poultry Federation, the percentage of chicken injected with saltwater has doubled to more than 30 percent.
The Federation joined consumer advocates and democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California this week in calling on the Agriculture Department to prohibit processors from labeling such birds as '100 percent natural.'
Critics say the injections may lead to higher-than recommended amounts of sodium intake and because the practice adds up to 15 percent more weight, consumers pay extra at the checkout counter. But poultry experts say one reason why processors use the injections is that consumers prefer the flavor and texture it yields.
The industry made news of another sort this week when the Agriculture Department predicted improving economic conditions would lead to an increase in broiler meat and egg production in 2010. And USDA sees improving conditions elsewhere in the livestock sector.
Overall, the strengthening of the global economy is predicted to increase buying potential by consumers moving more product from farm gate to dinner plate in 2010.
According to USDA data, the number of cattle-on-feed is 460,000 head lower than last year making it the smallest herd since 1951. With the decrease, USDA analysts are predicting an increase in average beef prices by as much as six percent.
Hog producers also can look to a potential increase in prices as the overall herd size is expected to decrease in 2010. USDA sees the reduction bolstering prices through increased exports. The action should help sustain market prices at above break-even levels for most producers this year.
Lamb producers received good news from the report. With the sheep and lamb inventory declining for the fourth year in a row, prices are expected to rise two percent this year. The news may push producers to increase flock size.
And there was a bright spot for dairy producers. Though the number of replacement heifers remains almost even with 2009 there is potential for an increase of 30 percent in the Class III milk price. Contributing factors include decreased output and increased exports in 2010.