Mechanically separated chicken paste looks like strawberry soft serve

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Visual treat of the day: mechanically-seperated chicken paste.

Someone figured out in the 1960’s 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.

This paste goes on to become the main ingredient in many a hot dog, bologna, chicken nuggets, pepperoni, salami, jerky etc…

The industry calls this method AMR – Advanced Meat Recovery.

Mechanically separated chicken paste looks like strawberry soft serve

Start the discussion at bbs.boingboing.net

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  1. Ditto. But that’ll be the most disappointing frosty triple-scoop in history.

    I’m a bit unnerved by the fact that it’s apparently routinely dispensed into cardboard boxes. You’d think something more plasticky, more washable, more permanent would be in use.

    It’s too much to hope for stainless steel, I guess.

  2. Well, it’s better than chicken feet, at least in my imagination.

    Then again, when I cook and a chicken, I leave only the hard parts of the bone. :-)

  3. The machines that do this are not unlike those used by the Once-ler to harvest truffula trees. A meat thneed is a thing that everyone needs!

  4. “Eeek! An additional profit!” (girl with skirt raised on table, tiny dollar sign on floor next to mouse hole.

    Should we submit this to the New Yorker cartoon dept.?

    1. That’s really interesting. I’ve seen this picture around the webs for at least a year now, and have forwarded it to other people, just on the hearsay that it was actually mechanically separated chicken.

      If it’s not actually chicken, but is instead strawberry softserve, the internet is going to look like an idiot. That’s right, I said it.

      So, does anyone have any evidence that the image is legit?

    2. It is the end product, which has taken mechanically seperated chicken, treated it with ammonium nitrate to cleanse it of the bacteria it’s crawling in, then re-flavoured artificially and turned it into this paste.

  5. One:
    This photo is being disputed all over the interwebs as a fake. Anyone got a link to what MSC *really* looks like?

    Two:
    If it turns out this is what it looks like, I think we need a Unicorn Chaser. A mechanically-separated Unicorn chaser.

  6. I saw this picture on the net a few weeks ago. However, it wasn’t described as being mechanically separated chicken, it was described as one step in the McNugget making process. True? I can’t say.

    I can also say that I was told by a reliable source that mechanically separated chicken was a process by where they blast the last bits of chicken off the bones with water. Even though it may sound or look gross, it’s fine.

    A lot of things in the food industry disturb people who aren’t used to seeing it, but are actually perfectly ok. For example, when I was young I saw a chef in a restaurant kitchen cutting open a huge plastic bag of tomato sauce and putting it in a pot. I was disturbed slightly because sauce is supposed to come in a can or a jar, damnit! Thing is, a plastic bag is just fine.

    1. No, no, NO. A “chef” using tomato sauce from a can, jar, or bag?

      Not unless you call someone at McDonald’s a “chef.”

  7. Sure it’s gross, but it’s better than throwing it away, or even composting it. Raising animals for meat is inefficient enough, why be even more wasteful about it?

  8. Sure it looks a little bit gross, but in the end, its about not wasting anything. I think most people can agree that if killing animals for food is going to happen, its best not to waste any of it.

    As for the cardboard box thing:
    plastic + raw chicken = bacteria heaven.

    I’d think that recycling old cardboard into pulp to make new clean cardboard would probably be a pretty good option. As long as you’re not clear cutting old growth forests to make paper products and you recycle what you can, I don’t have much of a problem with cardboard environmentally. And from a bacteria standpoint, I imagine that you replace cardboard quicker than you do plastic, so its likely to be cleaner. In general, I don’t like plastic for very many things.

    Feel free to tell me otherwise.

      1. No, the act of ingesting something so vile and unhealthy is a reason to go vegetarian. Next time you could just ask instead of Hannity-esque characterization.

        1. Then explain how it’s unhealthy compared to, say, any other chicken? (Ignoring the fact that the picture and description is fake)

          1. It’s unhealthy compared to other chicken because of the massive amount of artificial crap that goes in it to make it taste like it isn’t what it is.
            I remember having the not-so-valuable parts of chicken in soups (my mother does not waste anything) and they don’t even taste remotely like chicken nuggets or patties or anything that simulates chicken breast meat.

          2. The picture/description has yet to be proven fake and the link that was provided basically confirmed the chicken, but disputed what all the substance went into.

            And why have me compare it to other forms of chicken? I’m a bit out of shape to be chasing after goalposts.

      2. Nah, I imagine the idea of mechanically separating animal parts (or auto-dismembering, I guess) can be a real turnoff to an imaginative would-be meat-eater.

        Carving up beasts and fowl for food purposes by hand with artisanal instruments is still called “butchery,” which carries negative connotations of its own. Picturing a large Rube Goldberg device, complete with white cartoony-gloved hands on scissored Seussian extensions, tearing a cute li’l critter limb from limb and grinding it down to a pastel pink paste in a coldly efficient handful of seconds… hell, that image puts even me off my Whopper Jr.

  9. The box shown here appears to be coated with wax. It looks a lot like the chicken boxes we used to store comic books in at Mile High Comics in Boulder, CO. Sometimes the boxes had bits of chicken stuck to them.

  10. I find it amazing that so many people are so — almost conveniently — quick to dispute this story all across the web. Are they the PR Droids or simply purveyors of Truth? Surely we’ll find out because this story’s everywhere today. But, seriously, beware the PR Droids.

  11. http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/msm.asp

    Again, this is a fake. This isn’t what MSM looks like, nor is it made my grinding up an entire carcass. It is, as many commenters have pointed out, a process for removing all the edible meat from bones.

    Also, not for nothing, but isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t it better than we use all the edible parts of an animal, instead of just throwing them away? If you’re opposed to eating any and all meat, that’s one thing. But if you think it’s ok to eat meat, isn’t this a good thing? That we’re not just throwing food away?

    1. Where in that article does that say that the picture isn’t mechanically separated/recovered meat?

      It simply states that the process is a bit different then the original description.

    2. You keep saying the photo is fake, but nothing you’ve linked to supports your claim. Who are you and who do you represent?

      1. In all fairness, one could ask the same question of you! The original photo has no source. http://www.fooducate.com didn’t give any attribution for the photo, and really it’s been floating around the internet for years.

        It would be good to get a verified expert opinion. As it is, though, the burden of proof ought to be on the people making the claim.

      2. but nothing you’ve linked to supports your claim

        Mark, you are the one making (or at least supporting) the extraordinary claim here. Can you support the assertion that the pink goo is in fact mechanically separated chicken?

      3. Are you kidding me? I’ve posted once in this thread. I made one statement that this wasn’t MSM. I linked to one website, which you might note has actual citations, unlike anything you’ve posted.

        You posted an internet rumor as fact. You posted an unsourced photo, without doing even a cursory Google search to verify it. Wikipedia describes this process. The USDA site describes this process. Snopes describes this process. I understand that in this rough-and-tumble blog world, you need to react fast to months-old email forwards, but I assume you have 60 seconds for a Google search?

        Fine, you’re right: this photo might be MSM. Or it might not be–who knows! It’s doubtful, considering that the process of MSM doesn’t involve strawberry soft serve, and actual MSM would probably be even more overtly “disgusting” than this (imagine putting a turkey carcass in a bucket and blasting it with a pressure washer. It wouldn’t exactly look like ice cream).

        However, all of the most incendiary claims made by this post are false. MSM is not made by grinding an entire carcass into mush, and it is not “soaked in ammonia”. It can be treated with dyes and flavoring, but, then, so can all processed foods. So whoever originated this rumor clearly lied about some of the process; you’ll forgive me for being dubious of their claims about what the picture is of, too.

        TL;DR. You keep saying the photo is real, but nothing you’ve linked to supports your claim. Who are you and who do you represent?

        1. I’m sorry, I conflated this post with the Snopes post (and the Reddit thread, which is where I first saw this). This post does not make the same (false) claims as those. My apologies.

        2. “You keep saying the photo is real, but nothing you’ve linked to supports your claim.”

          Do I keep saying that? I thought I said it once. Here’s something I will keep saying: if anyone provides links that shows that this photo is not what every site I’ve come across says it is, I will happily post a correction. And Rex, if it turns out not to be chicken paste I will buy and send to you a $10 McDonald’s gift card to compensate for the aggravation I’ve caused you.

  12. Meat is meat is meat no matter how gross it looks.

    And until you’ve killed and skinned and butchered an animal, you really don’t have a baseline for meat grossness index.

    To the veggies claiming it (or meat in general) is unhealthy: So what. With any luck I’ll get to enjoy delicious bacon and chicken and steak and cigarettes and beer for my entire life before being hit by a bus. Y’all act like dying is the worst thing in the world. To me, dying slowly is much worse than keeling over from a clogged artery. You all might live longer, but it’s not the length that matters – it’s the girth.

  13. Of COURSE that’s mechanically-separated chicken paste… only this photo was taken AFTER Paris Hilton ate it. Hey, if unicorns can poop rainbows, then why can’t Paris Hilton poop strawberry smoothie?

  14. I also don’t see how this is necessarily unhealthy. If the paste were contaminated with intestine or brain matter…sure that would be unhealthy/risky. But all sorts of great cuisines are based off of getting the most out of the non-meat portions of a carcass, such as bone marrow and cartilage.

    I think people are a little too used to the luxury cuts of meat while the trimmings(pronounced: flavor cuts)get thrown out.

    1. Why would brain matter or intestine be inherently risky? Brains and intestines are perfectly edible. I mean, assuming you wash the latter and the former didn’t come from, I dunno, mad chickens or summat.

      Having to disinfect meat is more troubling–not for the disinfectant itself (assuming it’s something safe and used in safe quantities) but the fact that it was required in the first place. Shouldn’t the insides of the tissues should be largely pathogen-free to begin with?

      1. Why would brain matter or intestine be inherently risky? Brains and intestines are perfectly edible.

        According to the Snopes article on this subject (which seems to support the claim that the photo is legit even though it doesn’t provide the source for it) the FDA declared the bovine equivalent of “mechanically separated meat” unfit for human consumption in 2004 based on the risk of mad cow disease (which is contracted by eating brains and nerves). But apparently chicken brains are still OK.

  15. Ok, leaving aside the photo in question, not wasting meat is a good thing, yes.

    Not “wasting” meat by dunking it in ammonia because it’s likely been contaminated already is not something that should be hidden from consumers.

    We waste so much meat by turning up our noses at cuts for cultural reasons that we really shouldn’t be resorting to so much reconstituted stuff in the first place. If you want to eat meat and pretend it didn’t come from an animal, I really don’t know what to tell you.

  16. All the sites that have this photo say it is mechanically separated chicken paste. If it isn’t I will be pleased to correct the post.

  17. while trying to figure out whether that was real,yesterday, I found this:

    Which is amazing in several ways.
    (warning- some people, particularly vegetarians, may find the video upsetting. )

  18. I do not work for the food processing industry but I have compared this unattributed photo to various videos of how mechanical separation machines work and the picture does not resemble results that are anything like what actual MSM looks like.

    I suspect that this is some sort of foam rubber used for insulation on an industrial scale (thus the pink color). I’m pretty sure the FDA would require food products to be output into stainless steel containers.

    http://greginthedesert.net/2010/10/fake-picture-of-mechanically-separated-chicken/

  19. In addition to the video I linked above, I saw several other chicken separation videos- I didn’t see anything that looked *quite* like the photo. If I was a betting man, I’d bet that that was a dyed fish product, perhaps a stage in the production of surimi.

  20. Mr. Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council was previously quoted as saying “I’ve actually seen them make it at the plant … It looks like pink toothpaste when it comes out of the machine.” (attribution).

    A friend contacted him to get a view re: said posting. His response includes the following (along with vehement denunciation of the post’s tone and content): “My quote is reasonably accurate.  I forget who I told that to originally, but it’s pretty accurate.  MSC is a system for removing edible and wholesome meat which is then put to good use.  Nothing wrong with it.” This would seem to suggest the pink goop is not unquestionably MSC …

    He does, also, note the following: “The entire chicken does not go through the separator.  As I noted in my quote, actually they use parts such as drumsticks, thighs, or backs.  The heads and internal organs are removed long before the chicken parts get to this point.”

  21. “Could be meat… could be cake… it looks like… Meatcake!”

    Hey, by the way, given how many zillions of tons of chickens are “separated” (mechanically or otherwise) and processed and made into yummy foodstuffs, what *do* they do with all them beaks ‘n’ feet? I guess they maybe don’t end up in the McNuggets (except on special occasions), but there has to be a substantial volume of heads and feathers and offal. Do they just make fertilizer out of ’em, feed ’em to the pigs, or just render them into candles and guitar picks and Prius upholstery?

    1. Feet sometimes become dog chew toys…I know it sounds gross, but my old dog used to love dried chicken feet.

      Mostly, however, those parts become “meat by-products” and are added to cheap/low end pet food.

    2. Well, many chicks have their beaks cut off when they’re quite young (in what some people call an inhumane procedure to begin with) so they don’t peck their massive factory farm mates to death, so those aren’t there when they even arrive at the processing plant.

      Anyway, there’s two different kinds of mechanical deboning. One is machines that take legs or breasts or whatever and take usable pieces of meat off them to sell as breasts or whole dark meat. The other is kind of a thing that minces everything up that you dump in the top, and somehow (I’ve never really been able to figure out how) pushes most of the bone chips out one nozzle and everything else out the other. The “KP Yeildmaster” on this page http://eeclink.com/products/search/default.asp?cat=MECHANICAL+DEBONING+EQUIP is one of those. You can see examples of the other kinds on that page too. Oh, here’s a site selling new ones: http://www.fx-foodmachine.com/sdp/338252/4/pd-1495215/3504912.html

      So yeah, the picture is very much the kind of thing you would see out of the first kind of mechanical deboning equipment, and yes it is largely deboned since the bone chips come out another part of the machine. If you see “mechanically deboned meat” on a product, that’s the kind of thing you’re getting. I think the industry is moving towards feeding that to pets rather than humans more than anything else these days because of greater visibility of just how disgusting the concept is.

      I don’t think – now we’re talking about it – that you’re allowed to do that for beef because you do end up with a product that has a lot of nerve matter in it that can spread mad cow disease.

  22. OK, fine. But that still doesn’t explain what “Chicken In A Biskit” crackers are made out of.

    1. And, by the way, Chicken in a Biskit crackers are made from mechanically separated DELICIOUSNESS.

  23. Let’s try and figure out what it is, if it’s not chicken paste.

    Here’s my guess: Someone’s pet albino boa constrictor got its head stuck in a piece of industrial machinery. The boa really likes drinking Peto-Bismol, which is why it’s pink. That worker there is the owner, trying to get it to come back out, using a big scoop of Pepto-Bismol as a lure.

  24. The photo COULD be of some kind of meat product. If you check near the end of this video, the hot dog meat coming out of the emulsifier is quite similar, save color and a bit of stiffness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBBSY5Z5YVk

    However it could easily be part of a candy making process, some kind of fluffy candy…marshmallow? Laffy Taffy? Dog treats?

  25. Is it so impossible to have it verified? Do meat processing plants not allow photos to be taken? If so, why such secrecy and tight control?

  26. I think those of you linking to Snopes should watch the video at the bottom of the page there. When the guy runs the carcass bits through the blender, it looks a lot like the stuff in this article’s photo.

  27. That is how it turns out in the UK. If you watch some of the Jamie Oliver vids on youtube, there is one where he tries to show kids how chicken nuggets are made. He tells the viewers at home that what he is about to do is not how things are done in the US. He takes off the breasts, the legs, the thighs, and wings from the carcass. Then the rest of the carcass, sans feet and neck, he chops up into 4 pieces and blends it all together. It looks rather pink and much like the above.

    Also, if you watch the “How Its Made” vids on youtube, you will see them putting meat into plastic bags that are inside of cardboard. The lack of plastic bagging in the above pic could be another sign that it is from the UK and not the US.

  28. Hmmm…I’m betting it’s some kind of non food related process, likely something along the lines of the rubber they make to then further process into havianas or toys or something. There is just no intersection between this and plain old cardboard boxes unless it’s a non wet food item and in the picture you can see other boxes with this item in it.

  29. Since someone asked – why this is a good reason to be vegetarian (or at least eat less meat):

    Processes like mechanical meat separation are a consequence of that good old capitalist drive to achieve lower costs and higher profits by increasing the amount of saleable product yielded by each individual chicken, or animal.

    This *is* a problem, and not simple efficiency, because striving to extract the maximum possible yield like this has a demonstrated tendency to squeeze safety margins.

    Case in point: someone (probably Xeni?) posted an article on BB a while back about a woman who suffered debilitating (or lethal? Can’t remember) food poisoning from some supermarket burger patties. Turns out that in the quest for more meat from each carcass, beef processing plants are (literally) cutting things much finer than they used to when removing the skin of the carcass (in order to not waste meat). Which increases the likelihood of the faeces that usually contaminates a lot of the skin, getting transferred onto the meat and killing us. As I remember this contamination is also very hard to trace, because patties and the like that contain these products are typically made from a blend of sources.

    There’s nothing wrong with the quest to use technology to increase food yields – I think it’s essential to our future survival. See a really interesting TED talk called “The case for white bread” for some related thought-provoking stuff. I think there is reason to believe that it has negative consequences when it pertains to meat, though. I have no ethical problems with the eating of meat as such, but the consequences of industrialising production on the scale that we do, for both us & the animals in question, are kind of horrifying. I think the idea of eating an animal that’s effectively been raised in its own shit due to space-constraints is pretty off-putting, vegetarian or no.

    So… one option: if you eat less meat, and less frequently, you can afford to make your occasional meat-dose a truly delicious and indulgent high-quality & ethically raised steak or chicken, rather than a McNugget.

    There’s also the health and longevity benefits of eat less meat on a daily basis (see sources like “The China Study”), and the environmental benefits (see Mark Bittman’s TED talk on “What’s wrong with what we eat).

  30. I third the statement that this stuff looks a lot like the chicken-paste Jamie Oliver makes in the Snopes-linked vid. That said, I know this looks off-putting at first, but think about chicken nuggets. What would you expect them to be made of if not chicken paste? I bet even chicken breast would look a lot like this if ground finely enough. And adding seasonings to meat is not unheard of. Unseasoned chicken tastes kind of bland.

  31. Ok I just threw up in my mouth a little. If that pix doesn’t make you at least question eating meat, at least until you drive by the next McDonalds…

  32. Jeezus Kee-rist, maybe it’s ground up rat’s ass. The way all of ya’ll are carryin’ on! “It’s this, no, it’s that; well just prove it and I’ll be pleased to remove it AND buy you a cookie; lighten the fuck up Francis; go soak your head in ammonia”. Who’s going to compensate me for my aggravation, HUHN??

  33. Considering there is a such a thing as mechanically separated chicken paste, I think the debate about whether it is depicted in this photo is pretty much academic.

    I mean, the product would look pretty much like that, whatever that is.

  34. Want to know what an Internet hoax looks like? Check it out. Reasons why: (The obvious) It’s going into a cardboard box! (The less obvious) a) No way for it to keep that shape b) The color, mang. Seriously. Mind you, I just spent the last 30 minutes watching videos of meat separators in action and it’s unbelievably gro…ss. But it’s nothing like that picture. Also, the text is just plain wrong. These machines don’t process whole birds. And from what I can find ammonia is not used to treat processed chicken, though I might be wrong about that. I will include links in the comments. Oh, and finally, fast food, while disgusting, is not made up 100% of this crap.


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMK1H_ChD8E&NR=1

  35. A co-worker of mine was showing pictures of the unguided tour he took of the Ford F-150 plant in Dearborn.
    It will be a good day when we can take photos and unguided tours of the factories that grow and slaughter our food.

  36. There’s nothing like the look on a little kid’s face after the takes the first bite of a mechanically separated chicken paste cone.

  37. Appears to be a food grade process based on the gloves and sleeves. Looks like they’re trying to get an extrusion process cranked up, clearly not in production mode.

    I think it’s bubble gum.

  38. I can’t say for sure if this is hoax or not, but it does look very similar to the MSM featured in the documentary Food Matters. I remember thinking the pink eraser color was pretty gross when I saw it there.

  39. Man, this kind of thing frustrates me so much. The same people who
    vote green are the same people who complain about MSM. MSM is probably
    the greenest thing invented in a long time! Sure, for the companies
    its about profit. But, if you look at meat production, SOOOOOO much is
    wasted. This makes sure that perfectly healthy and good protein is
    delivered. If they just threw away that meat, then it would be a terrible
    waste.

    So, stop complaining and eat more MSM if you want to help the environment.

    Or sure… be a veggie. But…. most of us aren’t.

    PS: Stop it with the water bottles!

  40. Here’s a video of real mecahnical separation.

    The pink mechanically-separated chicken goo is at 0:19.

    Conclusion: Mechanically-separated chicken looks totally gross. But not that different from ground chicken. It looks nothing like the strawberry soft serve/insulating foam from the photo above.

  41. Is it any mechanically-recovered meat product? Maybe, maybe not. *Shrug* Whether it looks exactly like that or not, we can expect a slurry of water-pulverized flesh to look (and probably smell) pretty off-putting.

    And taste fine, and be quite nutritious. Like others here, I think it’s more objectionable to kill an animal and then only eat its choicest bits. Besides, I have an asshole and eyelids. I guess I probably require asshole and eyelid proteins.

    All I really care is that the beast is killed humanely, without pain or terror. Is that too much to ask of industrial meat processors?

  42. I’ve worked with AMR chicken in a test kitchen. Once I saw it, it had been frozen for a while, but it looked like the stuff in SamSam’s video up there: cheap hamburger, pretty much. Fairly granular. You have to remember that AMR meat–chicken especially–is like 1/3 fat: it is very slippery and oily.

    I have no idea what this stuff in the photo is. It is clearly way too sticky to be a meat product, or it would just slump and fall apart instantly. I’m guessing it’s either a candy product or something similar, with a lot of sugar and/or thickener to hold it together. It’s clearly very light-weight as well, otherwise it would slump a lot more. It that were chicken, it would weigh 40# at least. I don’t know what’s happening with the cardboard box thing there… that’s not a waxed box, either. I can’t think of any reasonable explanation for that.

  43. hmmmmm, mix in some spices + bake it in a cone + BBQ sauce drizzled on top + park next to elephant ear stand = new carnival delight!!!

  44. They call that “advanced” meat recovery?

    My idea of advanced: transporter technology (see Star Trek) that transports fresh living meat directly from the animal to my plate (with an extremely brief detour through the core of the nearest star, because I like mine cooked medium-rare, please).

  45. Mark,

    Yes — it’s true. Poultry is sometimes mechanically separated and when it is, the resulting product is called mechanically separated poultry (MSP). It is NOT true, however, that this is how chicken nuggets are commonly made. The vast majority do not contain MSP. Nuggets are usually made from pieces of white meat and sometimes from a combination of white and dark meat.

    Some processed meat products, like hot dogs and lunch meat, do contain MSP and this is stated on the ingredient label by law. This process is regulated and inspected by USDA, and if used, is included in the ingredient statement.

    Even Snopes.com has an entry about the claims in this piece. Anyone who took the time to read this post should also visit http://bit.ly/b7zg2t and http://bit.ly/cSALAM for the facts.

    Using technologies like this helps prevent the waste food, plain and simple. It is just a more technological and economical way of cutting the remaining chicken meat off of the bone.

    I ask that you update your post, instead of fueling a viral internet rumor without checking the facts.

    Tom Super, American Meat Institute, Washington, D.C.

  46. I read that the paste of mechanically separated chicken is actually grey in colour, not pink like this… and also, if it’s REAL meat and it’s just in paste form what difference does it make? At least it’s real meat. More nutritional value than some bread filler…

  47. The important thing to notice here is that thousands of chickens (or whatever animal(s) you are eating) are mixed together in one paste. If just one is sick or contaminated it can spread throughout an entire batch. If one chicken had salmonella it could wind up in 100 different McDonalds! Maybe 1,000!!!

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