Mechanically Separated Poultry/AKA Chicken McNuggets

By Weston – October 6, 2010

Mechanically Separated Chicken, from Fooducate, via Early Onset of Night

The photo above has been extensively passed around recently, and for good reason: it’s a peek into the rarely-seen world of mechanically separated meat.

Fooducate writes:
Someone figured out in the 1960s that meat processors can eek out a few more percent of profit from chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows by scraping the bones 100% clean of meat. This is done by machines, not humans, by passing bones leftover after the initial cutting through a high pressure sieve. The paste you see in the picture above is the result.

Michael Kindt continues:
There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia… Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color.

But, hey, at least it tastes good, right?

High five, America!

The resulting paste goes on to become the main ingredient in many of America’s favorite mass-produced and processed meat-like foods and snacks: bologna, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, Slim Jim-like jerkys, and of course the ever-polarizing chicken nugget, where the paste from the photo above was likely destined.

UPDATE, 10/4/10: The story has been amended to reflect that although mass produced chicken nuggets at large may contain mechanically separated chicken, McDonald’s famous McNuggets no longer do contain “mechanically separated poultry as defined by the federal government. The USDA now requires foods with mechanically separated poultry to be labeled as containing “mechanically separated chicken or turkey” in their ingredients lists.

Additionally, although “mechanically separated meat” may apply to turkey, chicken and pork, due to concerns over BSE, the federal government has held since 2004 that mechanically separated beef “is considered inedible and is prohibited for use as human food.”

UPDATE II, 10/5/10: Although the original source of the photo is unknown, there is little reason to doubt that it is not mechanically separated poultry or pork. For example, on his recent Food Revolution show, Jamie Oliver demonstrated a version of the process (“how to use all the leftover bits to make food”), by hand, to kids, in a failed attempt to scare them away from the mass-produced foods that such meat slurries end up in (failed, because the children still wanted to eat the resulting chicken nuggets despite his demonstration). The chicken slurry he made before their eyes bears an uncanny resemblance to the passed-around video: Jamie Oliver – Nugget experiment epic failure

Thanks to Colin Sterling of


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