No one would rank “touching raw chicken” high on their list of favorite kitchen pastimes, but for most cooks, it’s a necessary evil. You remove the meat from its package, slice or cut it, then spend 5 minutes disinfecting your cutting boards, counters, hands, and utensils, all the while worrying you’ve missed some salmonella-riddled spot.
U.K. supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is aware of the squicky-ness of cutting raw meat, and in May will introduce “touch-free” packaging that will allow a meat package to be torn open and the meat simply slipped into a pan. The Independent reports the chain is dubbing it “rip and tip.” The packaging will debut with chicken, and if customer feedback is positive, it will be extended to pork and fish as well. The “touch-free” package is especially aimed at younger consumers, who are more likely to feel averse to touching raw meat; a 2016 Mintel survey found 37 percent of young people said they’d prefer not to handle raw meat while cooking compared to 27 percent of people overall.
But the new packaging has its skeptics. “We find it disconcerting that shoppers are so removed from their food that they have these concerns,” Ruth Mason, chief food chain adviser at the National Farmers’ Union, told The Independent. She’s alluding to an aversion to the reality of what meat is: a once-alive, now-dead animal. It’s perhaps more comforting to think of meat in sterile, removed terms (raw beef is just a pre-hamburger!), but that’s also a psychological trick of sorts that distorts the reality of what meat-eating is. Anyway, that’s probably a philosophical discussion for another day. Just know that some social media users have dubbed the new product “snowflake chicken.”
Plastics opponents, too, have concerns over the “touch-free” innovation, assuming it will add more plastic to a meat package. Sainsbury’s, for its part, tells The Independent that the new pouches will be made “using less plastic than other comparable products.” My question is whether the packaging allows customers to slice or cube the raw chicken without touching it, or whether they’d have to slide the entire cutlet or breast into the pan whole. If so, that’s one weird stir-fry.