So What’s in those Chicken Nuggets?
A while back a picture surfaced on Facebook of what looked like creamy ice cream or cotton candy or something really….pink, and upon further inspection it turned out to be a big ol’ bunch of… Mechanically Separated Chicken. Eww, gross, right? The original FB post I saw claimed that Mechanically Separated Poultry, (MSP) was used to make McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets and included the entire chicken, eyes guts and all.
Now, I’ve processed an animal or two in my lifetime, and the claim about the eyes and guts made me a bit suspicious, because that has just never been what I’ve experienced, (also I think it’s illegal, for whatever that’s worth) so being from the Show Me state, I thought I’d check it out a little further. Because as much as I love the internet, it isn’t always the go-to guy for the truth.
Snopes.com, who generally is considered to be a reputable source of facts, considers this story to be a mix of fact and fiction. Yes, mechanically separated chicken is made by pushing the leftover parts after the breasts and legs are removed through basically a strainer to separate meat from other…stuff. No, eyes and guts are not included. Those probably get ground up and made into fertilizer or something else not intended for human food. Feathers, at least when I was studying nutrition at good ol’ Mizzou are often ground up for livestock feed. The mega poultry processors aren’t going to waste a thing if they can help it. Or miss a chance to make a buck.
Anyway, back to the McDonald’s McNuggets. Turns out McDonald’s has used chicken breast for their nuggets since 2003. Not that I’m defending McDonalds, but fair is fair.
However. That mechanically separated chicken is available in many other brand name products. Mechanically separated meat is required by law to be listed on the ingredient label of the food product. So, as we should all be doing anyway, read the food labels. Know what you are getting into. Or better yet, stay away from the processed stuff and buy your meat from a good, local, wholesome family farm. I happen to know a few! ;o) Yes it may cost more but you get your money back in better health and quality across the board. We are what we eat, and we are also what we eat, eats.
And the truth is, I’m less opposed to using every part of the animal in some way or another than I am to all the stuff that gets done to the meat before it reaches us. There is a huge difference in “mechanically separated” and “deboned”. And a big difference between high quality sausage or charcuterie and processed meat with preservatives you can’t even pronounce.
Here is a clip of a video from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution featuring a simplistic version of mechanically separating chicken.
I feel really sorry for Jaime at the end. And seriously, what are we teaching our kids?!? Maybe he should have shown that to the parents instead?