I Declare Bullshit on the “Mechanically Separated Chicken” Picture
October 6, 2010 19 Comments
I’m guessing that 75% or more of you have seen this image and the accompanying text, because I have seen it posted to Facebook a dozen times, and it’s now making its way into RSS sharing sites.
This meme is spreading fast, but I don’t really buy its claims.
Here’s one example of the text that often accompanies this picture:
Say hello to mechanically separated chicken. It’s what all fast-food chicken is made from—things like chicken nuggets and patties. Also, the processed frozen chicken in the stores is made from it.
Basically, the entire chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve—bones, eyes, guts, and all. it comes out looking like this.
There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. 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!
Variations on this theme have popped up around the web, with FitPerez.com and the Huffington Post alleging that this pink goop is what is in McDonald’s famous McNuggets.
Now — look.
Mechanically separated meat exists, and it is gross, and you should not eat it without being aware that you’re consuming a nasty, unhealthy food product.
That said, I declare bullshit on this picture and the text that purports to explain it.
Why are intelligent people just taking some Tumblr’s word for it that this picture is what they say it is, without a single citation or any kind of backup?
If you actually took the time to look into it, you’d find that the reality is significantly more complex.
Thankfully, Snopes.com has tackled this subject already, and they report:
Mechanically separated meat is a paste-like or batter-like meat product created by forcing unstripped bones under high pressure through a type of sieve to separate edible meat tissue (including tendons and muscle fiber) from the bones.
Contrary to what is claimed above, the process does not involve the grinding up of entire animal carcasses (“bones, eyes, guts, and all”) into one large, amorphous glob of meat; it is a technique for removing what is left on the bones of a carcass after all other processing has been completed.
Also, although meat packing plants typically use anhydrous ammonia for refrigeration purposes, with ammonia leakages having on occasion caused contamination issues at such plants, and sometimes introduce additional ammonium hydroxide into meat as an antibacterial agent, poultry processors do not routinely “soak” MSP in ammonia.
I am not arguing that mechanically separated chicken is a wonder food that you should serve up to your kids.
I’m arguing, on the basis of evidence, that this rapidly-spreading email-and-blog meme is full of lies and utterly misleads the reader.
Take another look at the picture:
Seriously, what is supposed to be going on here?
If this is a meat product, why is it being dispensed into a cardboard box?
Where is this supposedly taking place? Who took this picture and why?
What are the big metal scoops being used for?
Unverifiable internet sources who claim chicken-plant experience don’t glamorize what goes on in the horrid world of poultry processing, but they say “the picture isn’t chicken, I don’t know what the fuck that is.”
My unverifiable source is just as good as your unverifiable source!
One thing is for sure, the mechanical processing of meat is a largely automated process (warning, gross video) that does not involve cardboard boxes and comically large metal scoops.
Yes, it produces pink goop. But just because something looks like pink goop doesn’t make it automatically a crime against nature. Most of the meme’s argument is predicated on the supposed production process, and almost everything in that statement is factually false.
Here’s another thing in the meme that I know is a lie. The food product most often tarnished with the pink-goop stigma is McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets — which, in reality, have been made with white meat chicken since 2003, NOT mechanically processed meat.
Mechanically processed meat is used in extremely low-grade chicken patties and nuggets and in hot dogs, but it’s easily avoided because it has to be listed in the ingredients. Even McDonald’s turns up its nose at this stuff! My guess is, you’ve eaten little to no mechanically separated chicken in the last 6 months.
So let’s not freak out and stop eating all chicken nuggets over one stupid, unverifiable picture.
Industrial food scaremongering fail.
Factory-scale poultry processing is a disgusting process, no doubt. Read this article to learn more about the way that chicken breasts make their way into shrink wrapped packages. It’s foul.
Does it come as a surprise to anybody that the contents of hot dogs are pretty appalling? That said, they don’t contain eyes, brains and bones, nor are they “soaked in ammonia.”
Obviously, we should all be striving to eat the freshest and most sustainably-produced foods we can. Highly-processed, chemically fortified fast foods are pretty nasty and we should avoid them whenever possible.
But not because we saw some horseshit picture of pink goop masquerading as a food expose.
Use your brains, friends.