About Those Chicken McNuggets

Um, yeah:

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.


  1. I haven’t allowed my children to eat at mc d’s for about the past 6 years. I don’t even think my youngest has ever had a chicken mcnugget. I will say though, it took a few years for them to fully recover from mc d’s marketing ploy, those guys are fucking geniuses.

  2. The article is incredibly misleading. Mechanical separation involves running the bones, after most of the meat has been removed by cutting, trough a mill, high-pressure, or other means, to separate the REST of the meat from the bones. The bones, feet, and head are generally rendered for the fat and marrow. Yes, its a disgusting result, but nowhere near what they describe.

      1. The first time I saw this type of image, I thought the pink color was odd too, but raw whole meat chicken is also pink. Not sure why this looks more artificially colored like strawberry Quik or Pepto Bismol. Why I was surprised to learn they artificially color it back to something “normal,” because I assumed it turns whitish when you cook it anyway, and I’m assuming the frozen chunks and patties of “parts chicken” you get at the supermarket are precooked. Ground beef, pork, or turkey is different, those I assume are not extracted off the bone and reformed, they are ground up whole meat from the good parts.

  3. Bob is correct. It’s called mechanically SEPARATED because it separates the meat from the stuff you don’t want. Sure it looks weird, but so does ground beef.

  4. I do a fair amount of work in food safety regulation. You should really treat yourself to the illuminated prose of our federal code on how these things are defined, made, tested, etc. It’s a generally accepted way to at least convince one to be a vegan for part of the week.

    Defined: ” Mechanically Separated (Species) is any finely comminuted product resulting from the mechanical separation and removal of most of the bone from attached skeletal muscle of livestock carcasses and parts of carcasses and meeting the other provisions of this paragraph. Examples of such product are Mechanically Separated Beef, Mechanically Separated Veal, Mechanically Separated Pork, and Mechanically Separated Lamb. At least 98 percent of the bone particles present in such product shall have a maximum size no greater than 0.5 millimeter in their greatest dimension and there shall be no bone particles larger than 0.85 millimeter in their greatest dimension.”

    That comes from 9 CFR 319.5. There are more (e.g., separated meats are allowed to be up to 30% fat!). They aren’t pretty.

  5. While these things are yuk-factor-gifted, isn’t it ethically and economically preferable to wastage?

    This is something I remember being struck by as a child in certain hippy-dippy discourse to which I was exposed: indigenous inuits hunting seal and whale, say, being excused in part because ‘they use all of the animal’, but modern food production methods that do likewise being condemned as a vile and unnatural symptom of how we are surely Doomed.

    1. Ideally, yes, this presents a use-it-all system. but that hardly makes it ethical, if for no other reason than the massive (MASSIVE) scale of MSM production prevents a number of checks on food safety that we all have come to depend on. This goes beyond guaranteeing freedom from contamination with pathogenic bacteria by contact with pus of feces. I’m talking about dangerous, weirder things like keeping spinal/nervous tissue out of our food supply, making sure this shit isn’t fed to feed animals (further propagating diseases we don’t know how to measure), and, above all, the irresponsibility of actually considering this shit safe or wise to eat. It’s an industrial product, not some choice cut of meat from your neighborhood butcher.

      1. I think you’re confusing issues there.

        For one, this is unrelated to the animal feed issue – since this is human food chain stuff. (Not to mention that animal proteins in animal feed is only an issue really with some animals; pigs are omniverous, for example, and there’s nowt wrong with them eating a bit of animal byprodusts).

        Also: mmmmm spinal cord! I lkid kinda, but there’s nothng inherently whong with spinal cord. It’s a delicacy in some national cuisines. Personally I routinely turn the leftover carcasses of roast chickens into soup, spines and all; and I make stock from lamb spine, too. (Not from other animals, but only because I don’t routinely have the whole carcass to deal with.)

        As to it ‘not being a choice cut of meat from your neighborhood butcher’, well yes, that’s my point. Its a way of extracting nutrition from the bits your neighbourhood butcher would… um… well, sell for soup actually. It’s industrial, yes, but it’s not using up anything that shouldn’t be used – just it ends up in nontraditional foods (with tons of additives, salts, etc – granted) rather than soup or sausage.

  6. Yeah, a big part of a chicken meat is not evenly remotely white. You have some nice brownish part after cooking, especially the legs.

    And about wastage:
    People used to cook whole chicken. Nothing was left, the leftovers were eaten. Mechanically separated meat come from the enormous consumption of meat in western countries and laziness (people prefer ready meals or processed meat than cooking a real cut of meat). I am not vegetarian at all, but I think we eat far too much meat.
    From a carnivorous point of view, we lose the pleasure of eating good meat.

    1. Whaddaya mean, ‘used to’? You think people don’t cook whole chickens any more?

      Mind you, I’m not sure who eats the offal that’s not counted as giblets, seeing as how most of that is Turd Sausage – definitely an acquired taste.

  7. As a follow up, food safety people always react with the same incredulity about how Americans in general react with apathy or (ha) cynicism about understanding what goes into food.

    It’s like hearing Glenn Beck say, “hands off my fries,” which isn’t so shocking, only to hear the same sentiment echoed by the progressives or what have you, which is definitely shocking.

    This stuff is really, really bad for us, but it’s cooked in ways that make it look and taste good. The science nerds have the cards stacked against us by foodcorp. We can’t win.

  8. Would you like that in a sugar cone or a waffle cone? Or do you need some foam insulation around a window? Or is it a craft clay with a name like “Scul-pee, suitable for elementary art class?

    I believe that its evil twin, mechanically separated turkey, stars in turkey bacon.

    I’ll just go back to my corner muttering about vCJD, prions and the rubbish fed to the chickens before their eyes and brains and spines are converted into conveniently wrapped food placed in a colorful box with a cheap plastic toy.

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