Wednesday, December 8, 2010

JMO - Bigger isn't better

I like Swanson's canned chicken breast. Ok, a giant corporation with mass chicken production, but doing some taste samples of the available brands in my area (from Safeway, QFC, etc.), it's the best tasting chicken. But here's the problem. Up until last year the chicken came in small 4.5 oz cans which didn't stack very well on shelves. Ok, fix the can.

Well the company did by introducing a larger, stackable can, with the same 4.5 ounces of chicken on the label. But really? No, not really. Doing some weighing of 12 cans (I make batches of chicken salad for a week or so), I found the water and chicken was 4.5 ounces as stated on the label, but there was only 2 7/8th to 3 1/8th ounces of chicken. Or roughly 1/3 of the weight was water.

The smaller cans had less water and more chicken, so naturally the company solved the problem with a larger can and less chicken. To keep the price the same, the company simply compensated for the cost of the large can with less chicken and more water. And the consumer is ripped off.

I thought something was different when I made the first batch of salad from the larger cans and there was less chicken in the mixing bowl. So I compared the two cans and difference of the chicken and water in the can. The smaller can with the less water had to have more chicken to make the 4.5 ounces of net weight.

The larger can afforded Swanson to add more water and less chicken to get the same net weight. And then they hoped consumers wouldn't notice the difference but simply buy more cans to compensate for the less total chicken for any meals, salads, etc. And one seems to notice, along with me,until I finally bought a scale for other reasona but decided to tested the cans.

I weighed the can minus the lid. I drained the water and weighed the can, the difference being the water. I emptied the can and weighed it again, the difference being the chicken (plus water in the chicken). Not rocket science. Twelve cans were consistent at 3 ounces plus or minus 1/8 of an ounce.

Well, maybe I'll reconsider the other brands again, but this time I'll test the net weight and then compare net price (cost of 1 ounce of chicken).


  1. I guess I'm a doofus because I always thought "net weight" meant the weight of the actual product. It just reminds me that everything is about maximizing profit in libertarian paradise world. *sigh*

    On another note... "I make batches of chicken salad for a week or so" ..really? A week or so? Hmm... I always thought that 3 days was about max. It just sounds unsafe. I don't know.

  2. Net weight is the weight of everything in the can or package, so water, or worse syrup, is a common ingredient of canned foods and water is often injected into meats (pre-freezing or fresh) to increase the net weight.

    Chicken salad is good for some time in the refrigerator after preparation. The canned chicken itself is good for 2-3 years and everything else in the salad is ok until it's freshness date, just mayonaise in my salad.