mechanically separated chicken

whats the difference between “chicken” and “mechanically separated chicken”? it seems to me that the latter is just the method used to extract the meat, but then why does it need to be listed as such under a product’s ingredients? does it mean that quality can vary? anyone know?

I assume it’s a selling point, rather than a requirement of FDA listing guidelines. It implies that no dirty human paws ever touched the chicken, and only nice, shiny and clean metal machine parts were involved. That’s my semi-WAG.

Mechanicaly seperated chicken, or beef for that matter, is separated from the bones in such a way that ALL the meat is useable.

Here’s a quote from this site,

“Very simply, mechanical separation is a way of getting every last piece of meat from the bone of a chicken, turkey, or other food animal.
Bones with edible meat attached are forced under high pressure through a device that separates the bone from the meat.”

More here,

And here,

Anyone else want a hamburger? Maybe a hotdog? Chicken McNuggets? They’re yummy…

I took “The Meat We Eat” in college - the best class ever. The teacher was a big southern farmer. He desribed mechanically separated chicken as this:

You know 2 or 3 days after Thanksgiving when all you’ve got left of the turkey is a carcass of bones and skin and cartalidge? Now imagine 9 billion of those - the number of chickens slaughtered each year in the U.S. Now take these carcasses, put them in a grinder, and chew everything up. At the other end of a grinder a machine decides what is edible, and what isn’t. Hence mechanically separated.

He also told us Taco Bell uses “Partially defatted beef fatty tissue” or something. This is where they take meat that’s too high in fat to use, and they heat it up and put it in a centrifuge. This will spin off the fat, reducing fat content from 50%-75% down to 10% or less, thus becoming edible.

I read the neatest article the other day, about an invention which is basically a created tornado-in-a-box. One of the potential uses of the machine is to mechanically separate chicken.

thanks for the answers, but i still have one question:
why the distinction? it seems to be something the companies must disclose to the public, yet i don’t see an reason for it. its still good meat…atleast, that’s the way it sounds

A bit off topic but I was told by a friend who worked with a chicken farm that they transfered the chicks from the incubator to the area that they were raised in by suction and about 2 miles of clear plastic tubing. He went on to further say “every once in a while a yellow puff would fly by in the overhead tubing”

The reason for the distinction is that some people aren’t too keen on eating the bits that have been scraped off the carcasse, perfering to eat the same nice bits they would carve at home. In general, I believe, the mechanically separated meat is not something you would serve up for Sunday dinner.


Russell is correct, it’s kind of like hot dogs - some are sold as “all beef” or “chicken”, and are higher quality. Others you really can’t be sure what part of the pig you’re getting. In the end they’re all edible (and honestly I think the “unknown origin” hot dogs taste better than the healthier ones), but some are healthier than others.

I had a friend at college who had worked at a chicken processing plant who described mechanically separated chicken process like this:
You put the chicken carcass (after the meat has been removed) into an auger/meat grinder that has two plates at the output end. Between these two plates are a small rectagular hole. The result of the auger is a paste which is the mechanically separated chicken. I assume that the same process is used for beef and pork…

Now, that said, I’m not sure how that would be formed into the nuggets (or dinosaurs) and still have a discernable grain to the ‘meat’. He had also indicated that extra fat had to be added to the paste for supplying Mcrestaurants since there is little fat left on the carcass.

Cite: (also includes labeling discussion)


I suppose I should just stop looking

“mechanically separated chicken”

If thats not a band name I don’t know what is.

thanks alot for all the replies and the great links. it’s a bit of a relief to know what it is because i don’t think its bad. But i guess enough people are disgusted by this process that a distinction between mechanically separated meat and just plain meat is needed.