Why you don’t want to know what your food is made of

Alright, so I’ve noticed a picture floating around Facebook recently.  You may have seen it too…

It’s usually followed with a question of what you think it is. Any guesses?  Well I can guarantee you’re probably wrong.  It’s supposedly mechanically separated meat or what mass produced foods like bologna, hot dogs, salami, Slim Jims and even some chicken nuggets are made of.  Gross, huh?

I first learned about mechanically separated meat in one of my food science/nutrition courses, but I’m pretty sure we never saw a picture this graphic.  MECHANICALLY SEPARATED POULTRY is a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones with attached edible tissue through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue. (source: USDA) It is then treated with ammonia to kill bacteria and then flavored and colored so that it resembles the foods mentioned before.  Check out my favorite TV chef, Jamie Oliver, demonstrating the process here.

Good news is…foods containing mechanically separated meat must include it in their ingredients list.  Also, in case you were concerned as of 2004 McDonald’s McNuggets no longer contain mechanically separated chicken as defined by the USDA. [source]

However…if that last fact makes you think McNuggets are a healthy form of protein, think again.  Today a news article was published about a 17 year old girl, who has eaten nothing but chicken nuggets, and the occasional chip or french fry, since age 2 (great parenting, huh).

“The factory worker – who says she has never tasted fresh fruit or vegetables – had to be taken to hospital earlier this week when she collapsed after struggling to breathe.

Killing herself: Stacey Irvine, 17, eats little else apart from chicken nuggets

Killing herself: Stacey Irvine, 17, eats little else apart from chicken nuggets.

She recently collapsed after struggling to breathe and was rushed to hospital.  Doctors found that her 15-year ‘chronic chicken nugget addiction’ has left her with anemia and inflamed veins on her tongue.  So deficient was her body in vitamins and nutrients that she had to be injected with them.”  [Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2092071/Stacey-Irvine-17-collapses-eating-McDonalds-chicken-nuggets-age-2.html#ixzz1kfhntRls]

Please notice, this girl is not noticeably overweight or obese.  I just want to take this opportunity to point out that, contrary to popular belief, the problem with fast food isn’t just that it makes people obese and therefore unhealthy.  It’s the fact that these foods, as you’ve just learned, are barely food.  They are as literal as the term gets, “empty calories”.  They are void of nutrients and full of animal products we otherwise wouldn’t even think of eating.

As I say with everything, if you really like McNuggets or other fast food, it’s ok if you have it once in a while, just know that you should be trying to get your daily nutrients from the foods you eat the rest of the day.  Or you could always picture that pink paste when you get a craving for chicken nuggets…mmm.

One response

  1. Hi there, Jacqui,

    First and foremost, I want to commend you on being concerned about what goes into your food and how important proper nutrition is. I wanted to reach out to you to clear up a few details regarding this picture and what is known as “mechanically separated meat” or MSM, and specifically how it relates to chicken.

    Mechanically separated poultry is a product made by removing meat from chicken or turkey bones by using screens and filters to remove the bones and bones chips while keeping the meat. Please know that the process does not involve grinding up left over bits of animals (bones, eyes, or anything like that). Rather, the technique is used to remove what meat is left on the bones after all other processing has been completed. It’s key to note that mechanically separated poultry is regulated by the USDA and completely safe for consumption.

    It’s also important to note, especially as I work in the poultry industry, that I have been in many chicken processing plants and have never seen mechanically separated chicken look the way it does in this picture, from what I understand came from China.

    Again, I really thank you for caring so much about the food we put into our bodies. I’d be happy to speak with you about any other questions you might have regarding this “pink slime” picture, or mechanically separated meat. I wish the best as you continue blogging.

    Most Sincerely,
    Tom Super
    Vice President of Communications, National Chicken Council

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