Question: Meats sold in supermarkets today are marked “water added.” What is the reason for adding water? Is the meat weighed and priced after the water is added, and are we paying for water? (Asked by a curious consumer.)

Reply: Meats contain a lot of water naturally. People eat meat for the muscle, which is about 75% water and 20% protein, with fat, minerals, etc., making up the other percentage. These percentages vary with the meat. For example, an eye of the round roast is 73% water before cooking and 65% after cooking.

Now there are “enhanced” meat and poultry products that contain flavor solutions added through marinating, needle injection and soaking. The presence and amount of solution is featured on the product label, for example, “Marinated with up to 6% of a flavor solution.” The ingredients of a flavor solution must be identified on the label. Of course, this is usually in small print. Marinated meats can contain no more than 10% solution, and boneless poultry no more than 8%. Bone-in poultry gets only 3%.

Meats are also shipped great distances in refrigerated railroad cars and trucks, and may have preservatives with water added. This extends the shelf life of the meat. Aqueous flavoring solutions are added at the meat packing house to large pieces of meat before being cut up, packaged and weighed at a supermarket. So yes, you are paying for it.

You may see some liquid in a meat package. Beef is often ground or cut up while partially frozen. When packaged and in the display case, the moisture will melt and seep out. Some meat and poultry products are vacuum-packed to prolong storage times. While the package sits in the refrigerator display case, the vacuum is still in effect and may extract juices out of the meat.

In researching this subject, I read an ad for Super One Foods, a supermarket chain the Southwest. They appear to be using meat additives to their advantage. All of their stores have professional meat cutters who process their beef and pork daily. Whereas prepackaged meat with preservatives might have a shelf life of three to five weeks, theirs is three to five days. Of course, this local cutting and packaging probably adds to the price. But their ad gives some sound advice: “Be sure to READ THE LABEL. Know what you are paying for and what you are putting on your family’s table.”

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): “Politics has become so expensive that it takes a lot of money even to be defeated.” — Will Rogers

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or e-mail jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to curiosity-corner.net.