When I was a kid, my mom would buy two kinds of canned tuna: Chunk Light, and Solid White. The difference between them was obvious - "solid white" was a thick, solid piece of fish; flaky and white, and obviously a whole cut placed into the can, while "chunk light" was a can full of smaller bits which were darker in color. Chunk Light was cheaper, and that's the kind Mom used for tuna salad sandwiches. After all, if you're going to be breaking the tuna down with a fork and mixing it with mayo and stuff anyway, why start with the expensive stuff? she saved the Solid White tuna for casseroles and pasta salads where large flaked pieces would be more appreciated. When I went off on my own, I pretty much followed the same reasoning.
Over the years, however, I've noticed that the quality of affordable canned tuna has dropped amazingly. I completely avoid tuna labeled "chunk" now, because the product is almost unrecognizable. Take, for example, this chunk white tuna by Ace of Diamonds. There are no chunks involved - just a can full of sludgy tunawater with lots of fishy particles suspended in it. This was really nasty stuff and it was worthless. Other brands of chunk-style tuna have proven to be just as bad.
But I've also found out I have to be careful about which brand of solid white tuna I buy, too. Although the quality is generally better with solid white, there is a wide variation between brands and even from can to can within brands as well.
Starkist solid white tuna is usually of decent quality, with big fillets of flaky white tuna, just like I remember as a kid. It's great for a casserole or a macaroni salad, and it makes delicious tuna salad as well.
Similarly, this can of 3 Diamonds solid white tuna was excellent as well. Mitsubishi, the corporate overlords of the 3 Diamonds brand, have changed this brand name to "Ace of Diamonds" since then (and they were the folks responsible for the tuna slurry pictured above) so I'm not sure if this older photograph is still representative of the actual product. I hope so, but I won't find out until the next time it goes on sale.
Bumblebee solid white tuna, on the other hand, is just barely acceptable for a "solid" tuna. The picture at left is typical of what you'll find in the can: No solid pieces at all, just chunks. If the color was darker it would look exactly like the "chunk light" tuna of my youth. At least I've found Bumblebee to be consistent - every time I open a can of their solid white tuna, I know I'm going to find this - so I don't turn away an opportunity to buy a few cans when they go on sale for less than a dollar a can at the local supermarkets. I just wouldn't pay full price for it.
And then there are brands which vary from can to can. Here are two cans of Chicken of the Sea solid white tuna (undrained) side by side. I purchased them at the same time from the same supermarket. The one of the left was filled with bits and pieces; the one on the right was what I expected to find when I bought "solid tuna." Do they have no quality control at the canneries?