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The Science of Why Chicken Goes Bad So Quickly

Food-borne bacteria are the primary cause of spoilage and food poisonings. Thriving in moist, low-acid environments where lots of protein is present, pathogens like Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli live with the bird during its life and stay with its meat after slaughter; likewise, other bacteria, such a Acinetobacter and Pseudomonads fluroescens, putida or fragi, thrive on the meat after it’s processed. Given chicken’s somewhat unique qualities, quick spoilage is inevitable, and can only be mitigated by careful attention to time, temperature and moisture.

Bacteria need water to survive, and grow on foods with a water activity of at least 0.85. Chicken, like most other fresh meats, has a water activity of 0.99, and thus provides an ideal environment. In addition, unlike many other meats, the water and ice used to process chicken doesn’t dry off the meat after it’s washed and chilled, and as a result chicken skin retains more water on the surface of its skin, providing an enticing home for a variety of bacteria.