Thursday, April 27, 2006

A colleague’s lunch

(scanned image of container, not the product)

The other day my idle curiosity drove me to read the ingredients on the packaging for a “Lean Cuisine” entrée that found its way into my work area.

Mostly, I just wanted to see how near the top of the list I would find high-fructose corn syrup, which has wormed its way into nearly every processed food available, including, amazingly enough, even Noah’s bagels, which ought to bar them from calling them bagels, but on to the topic at hand...

I was encouraged to see that “cooked chicken breast meat” was the second ingredient, but then I was stunned to discover that what first looked like a single ingredient was actually a concoction of no fewer than 11 other ingredients (and 14 additional sub-ingredients).

And, in a Zen koan-like manner, the first ingredient of chicken breast meat is … chicken breast meat, which presumably contains more … chicken breast meat ad infinitum (or, nauseum) …

Leaving aside the other product components, the package of Stouffer’s Lean Cuisine “grilled chicken with teriyaki glaze” lists the ingredients of the “cooked chicken breast meat” itself as:
• chicken breast meat
• water
• modified food starch
• soy protein isolate
• high-fructose corn syrup
• canola oil
• chicken flavor [yeast extract, salt, soy sauce (soybeans, wheat, salt), sugar, maltodextrin, dried chicken flavor, sesame oil, dried chicken broth, thiamine hydrochloride, lactic acid, citric acid, chicken fat]
• sodium phosphates
• maltodextrin
• spice
• caramel color

How is it possible that the phrase “chicken breast meat” can mean both chicken breast meat and NOT chicken breast meat? How can readers make sense of it when there are two completely different uses of the phrase, right next to each other? Has “chicken breast meat” been made an adjective when I wasn’t paying attention? This is insulting to both chickens and those who eat them, and is a misuse of the language as well.

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