Hey, Chicken Nugget Fans – Get a Load of This!

by Sarah TheHealthyHomeEconomist Healthy LivingComments: 41

A reader (thank you Rita!) sent me a link to an article in the Huffington Post today that absolutely grossed me out and I thought I had seen it all where processed factory food is concerned.

This picture is of mechanically separated chicken meat, also called Advanced Meat Recovery (yes, you read that right) before it is made into chicken nuggets, bologna, hot dogs, salami – uh, shall I continue?    Companies that produce processed food with this nauseating ingredient try very hard not to let photos like this get out to the public for obvious reasons.

According to Fooducate, this chicken paste is the result of cleaning every bit of meat off the chicken bones by passing it through a high pressure sieve.    It tastes horrible, so artificial flavors like MSG and many other additives must be mixed in to make it palatable.   The color is very odd and unappetizing requiring the cover of artificial colors.   It is covered in bacteria, so the paste must be soaked in ammonia to degerm it (see comment below from Stanley Fishman Esq. discrediting denials of this from Snopes).

Anyone up for the fast food drive through?

Seeing a photo like this, I am so grateful for my local poultry farm!    Do you have one yet?   What are you waiting for?

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

Comments (41)

  • Celeste

    Wow! I saw Jamie Oliver's version of this process on Food Revolution — and his was much cleaner, actually. Yuck! Does anyone want to eat anything made from an "Advanced Meat Recovery" process? Sounds like something dug out of the trash!

    October 5th, 2010 2:38 am Reply
  • Sarah Faith

    Have you vetted this? I saw somewhere that the ammonia part was a hoax. You should definitely check it out asap lest you undermine your credibility.

    October 5th, 2010 2:47 am Reply
    • mom of 7

      Actually in the article that you shared, snopes just confirms that ammonia is regularly used to clean the meat, all they say is that it is not “routine” to soak chicken in it. The reason you don’t see ammonia on the label is because it is not required to put non-food grade items on food labels.

      December 6th, 2011 11:39 am Reply
      • TwoZeroOZ

        Actually, in the article that was shared, snopes confirms that you are incorrect;
        Occasionally, ammonia accidentally leaks onto food and contaminates it. It is NOT used to “Clean the chicken”.

        I suggest you brush up on your reading skills.

        January 17th, 2012 1:54 pm Reply
  • Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist

    I thought it was soft serve strawberry ice cream when I first saw it!

    Sarah Faith, not positive about the ammonia .. I took the info from HuffPost – see from link.

    October 5th, 2010 2:57 am Reply
  • Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist

    Here's an update per the McNuggets, again from HuffPost:

    UPDATE, 10/4/10: The story has been amended to reflect that although mass produced chicken nuggets at large may contain mechanically separated chicken, McDonald's famous McNuggets no longer do contain "mechanically separated poultry as defined by the federal government. The USDA now requires foods with mechanically separated poultry to be labeled as containing "mechanically separated chicken or turkey" in their ingredients lists.

    October 5th, 2010 3:00 am Reply
  • Joanna

    It appears Europe has similar issues with food, so this article highlights. Ammonia or no ammonia, the moral of this tale is: eat well but above all know what you are eating!

    October 5th, 2010 3:58 am Reply
  • Pure Mothers

    That is so gross. I am glad that I am vegan! My last bite of meat that turned me off was a hot dog 18 years ago. I guess my instincts were good! I can't believe people feed that stuff to their children. Meat eaters definitely need to go organic, pasture fed!

    October 5th, 2010 7:26 am Reply
    • Ariel

      Ew, I’m not surprised a hot dog turned you off of meat. Although I respect your choice to become a vegan, I certainly wouldn’t, if only because I love my raw ice cream too much! 😀 I appreciate your acknowledgement that local, organic, pastured meats aren’t even in the same class as the gross man-altered substance Big Food likes to call “chicken.”

      December 11th, 2011 1:17 pm Reply
  • Stanley Fishman

    Sarah Faith, Snopes.com publishes a lot of articles that defend the food industry. They have no credibility with me.
    According to the New York Times and the Organic consumers Union, A pink slime is made from beef scraps that is treated with ammonia.
    The USDA approves this treatment because it is supposed to kill e coli bacteria. That is an undisputed fact. According to these sources, that pink slime is in most of the ground beef in the supermarket. I have no difficulty believing the same process is used with recovered chicken meat. Even the Snopes article admits that ammonia has been found in the chicken meat, but they claim it is not intentional, and is from ammonia dripping form the cooling system. As far as I am concerned, if it is there, it is there. And nobody in their right mind should want to eat ammonia.

    October 5th, 2010 7:51 am Reply
  • Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist

    I find it interesting that McDonald's states that "it no longer" uses the Advanced Recovery System meat which means they definitely used to use it! I guess when pictures like this get out, the Corporate PR office go into overtime damage control mode. I would be pretty certain that whatever non Advanced Recovery System meat they switched to is probably just as bad like the switch from trans fats to interestified fat for the french fries which is arguably even more damaging to health.

    October 5th, 2010 11:58 am Reply
  • Rusty

    Paul and Storm's "Nugget Man" on a pipe organ

    If you are unfamiliar with Paul and Storm, Mike Lombardo and/or "Nugget Man," you are welcome.

    I LOVE Chicken Nuggets! They have made my meals happier for years.

    October 5th, 2010 1:21 pm Reply
  • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    Disgusting. Glad I make any "chicken nuggets" we consume at home with pastured chicken. They are delicious. My children LOVE them. They look at fast food nuggets (when friends are eating them usually) like they are not even food. Maybe because they're not.

    October 5th, 2010 2:31 pm Reply
  • Jill

    Hi Sarah, I saw the photo on someone's Facebook page and my thoughts are: CAFO meat bad, for many reasons, pastured meat good.

    BUT…as far as this idea of Advanced Meat Recovery goes, I am wondering, if you're going to eat CAFO meat, does it matter if it's ground to a paste first? The Facebook person was saying the whole (I assume plucked) chicken goes through a sieve, including bones, eyes, organs, skin. Is that correct, or is it just that the muscle meat and bone go through a sieve? I am not clear whether they're saying there is bone in with the meat, or just meat.
    But WAPF encourages eating the whole bird…so assuming you have a CAFO chicken here, is there anything worse about eating a slurry of the whole bird vs. just the muscle meat? Might you actually get some cartilage and organ meat that would be a good thing?

    Why does it taste so bad, if none of the component parts of the bird would taste bad? I wonder if it's artificially flavored mainly because it's a way of standardizing the taste year round and worldwide, which they are so big on.

    Why is it crawling with bacteria any more than the cut up whole chicken would be? (Or is ALL the chicken in the stores treated with ammonia?)

    I'm not defending industrial meat, just wondering how this is worse than ANY industrial meat.

    I had read about ground beef being treated with ammonia, and so it wouldn't surprise me if chicken was too.

    But, say you took a pastured chicken and put it through a Magicmix or whatever Jamie Oliver used. Problem? Is it that different than making head cheese or sausage? Seems like it might be better for you than just muscle meat, if you're getting organs and skin blended in. (I don't know how it tastes; I don't like the taste of some organ meats, but that's why spices and such are added to sausages, right?)

    October 5th, 2010 2:33 pm Reply
  • Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist

    Hi Jill, yes I think most of the chicken goes through the sieve process as doing this with CAFO beef is no longer allowed as parts of the cow's central nervous system end up in meat paste which is a Mad Cow Disease risk. Given how toxic these confined chickens are, I wouldn't want parts of their nervous system, intestines etc in there. This probably accounts for why it is crawling with bacteria as well — bits of perforated intestine would account for this. There are probably other sources as well. No wonder processed meats are such a regular salmonella risk it seems!

    October 5th, 2010 2:55 pm Reply
  • Jill

    Well that makes sense if they're sending the intestines through, too. I assume the chicken was bled, plucked, and gutted, so that you had muscle and bone and gristle left, and that is what would go through the sieve.

    October 5th, 2010 2:57 pm Reply
  • Melinda

    My question is why would you mention McDonalds in your title and in the closing statements of your story? McNuggets belong to McDonalds. There are "nuggets" all over the place… why are you targeting McDonalds? You'll get no argument from me that as far as fat and sodium are concerned, McD's have issues, but to put their name into the story is tantamount to slander… McDonalds say they "no any longer use this process" is your reason for using their name? Shame..

    October 5th, 2010 3:01 pm Reply
  • Anonymous

    We mostly make our own chicken strips from pastured poultry but when we are traveling we sometimes partake. I noticed anything McDonald's will give my autistic daughter almost immediate mucous diarrhea, fries, nuggets, etc. but Chick-fil-A she can always tolerate. Chick-fil-A uses pieces of cut chicken but I often wonder why she can tolerate Chick-fil-A's fries but not McDonald's. Do any of you experts have an idea?

    October 5th, 2010 3:04 pm Reply
  • Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist

    Hi Melinda, I clarified the point you make in the comments above .. however, I seriously doubt that what McDonald's uses now is any better as the "trans fat free" fat they use for frying their fries is not worse than before. This is an evolving story and the fact is that McDonald's used to use this pink paste for its nuggets and is likely still using something just as bad or worse with a different name and processing method! Fooling the public is the name of the game here. Let's put the shame where it belongs please!

    October 5th, 2010 3:17 pm Reply
  • Anonymous

    Melinda, The fact that McDonalds say they no longer use this process is an admission that they did use it.

    Since they did use this horrible glop in their McNuggets at one time, where is the slander? They should bear responsibility for what they have done, and people have a right to know that Mcdonald's used to do it. The very fact that they used to do it is something that I, as a consumer, have a right to know. I do not want to patronize a company that would put that kind of stuff in their food. Do you?

    And why do you think they stopped doing it? It was because of people like Sarah, who exposed what they were putting in their chcken nuggets, and shamed the FDA into requiring that it be labeled. So Sarah and people like her make your food safer, and you cry slander and shame?

    You owe her an apology.

    October 5th, 2010 3:34 pm Reply
  • Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist

    Melinda, I do think you have a point here, though. The title of the blog refers specifically to McDonald's chicken mcnuggets while nuggets from other places are just as bad. I will change the title from "Mc"Nuggets to plain "Nuggets" so that all food producers using this nasty pseudo food carry equal blame.

    October 5th, 2010 5:07 pm Reply
  • Anonymous

    Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for posting this information.
    I think that intuitively many responsible parents try to avoid such foods for their children and themselves. However, I think that there is a vast segment of the population that blindly consumes these types of foods just because they are sold at restaurants and grocery stores.
    The issue is not one of government intervention and/or regulation (although that is helpful at some level), but rather the issue is educating consumers about these food products. Exposing the producers is much more effective than making them pay a fine to the FDA as they continue to produce the same garbage.
    Please continue to bring these issues/topics up. Exposure and education are the right antidote!
    Gloria :)

    October 5th, 2010 6:09 pm Reply
  • Anonymous

    So gross.

    On the ammonia controversy, in Food Inc. there is a interview with a guy from some meat-processing plant who is bragging about how they use ammonia to sanitize the meat (beef or chicken…I can't remember) because it lowers the risk of food-borne illness. So it apparently does happen. That was all my hubby needed to see to swear off CAFO meat for good. Did anyone else see that movie that can back me up on that? It's been a while so I don't remember the specifics.


    October 5th, 2010 8:20 pm Reply
    • Diann

      Yes, it’s a segment in Food, Inc., and the substance was once beef. I also saw an article within a month or two ago about it, also beef, and a process still ongoing. (NY Times, I believe.) They take this stuff and mix it with everything they can, plus a little “real” beef (from a CAFO, so you know what I mean). Repulsive. And because it is so dirty they need to use the ammonia.

      January 18th, 2011 9:48 am Reply
  • Stanley Fishman

    Anonymous, McDonalds french fries are not gluten free. In 2006, McConalds stated that the "flavoring agent" they put in the oil for frying the fries contains wheat and dairy components.

    It is quite possible that your daughter is allergic to something in the "flavoring agent", which is unique to Mcdonalds and a secret.

    October 5th, 2010 9:11 pm Reply
  • Linda

    Did I hear Jamie Oliver right in saying that that method is not used in the US anymore?

    October 6th, 2010 1:04 am Reply
  • Stanley Fishman

    Linda, that is only partly true. The government banned the use of "advanced meat recovery "for beef, because of mad cow, but not for chicken. And the government allows ground meat to be injected with ammonia to supposedly kill the e coli in the filthy scraps and slaughterhouse floor trimmings they now add to ground beef.The result is a pink slime that looks very much like the picture in this article.

    October 6th, 2010 1:47 am Reply
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    October 6th, 2010 10:04 am Reply
  • Anonymous

    Hmmm. I am not surprised or grossed out by the color of the meat. It is meat recovered from the bones where there is a higher concentration of blood flow so the pinkness of the meat is directly related to that fact. :shrug

    October 6th, 2010 12:29 pm Reply
  • Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist

    When I take off every little bit of chicken off the bones of my pastured poultry (by hand of course) and then blend in the food processor to make chicken salad, it is definitely NOT PINK!

    October 6th, 2010 3:48 pm Reply
    • Helen

      I just pulled all the meat off the Christmas turkey, and then cooked down the bones and scraps for broth. NONE of that was pink.

      December 29th, 2011 3:20 am Reply
  • Ray Gardner

    Two things:
    Snopes had "exposed" a popular email during the height of the Iraq war where Starbucks had refused to send a Marine unit some coffee. Long story short, they had defended Starbucks, and when I pointed out in an email to them that Starbucks really was guilty of what they were originally accused of, they dismissed me by saying that they were the experts, and I shouldn't mess with the experts. (I even copied and pasted from Starbucks own website for proof, and Snopes basically refused to talk about it anymore.)
    Secondly, there's no possible way that a meat packing plant has anything dripping on the product from any mechanical device. (In reference to the ammonia supposedly dripping on the chicken by accident.) I work for a large company that makes packaging for the food industry – we don't even make the food – and we have to go through so many inspections, and meet so many standards that is simply inconceivable that a meat packing plant just has leaky equipment and roofs, and things are just casually getting into the food.
    The food is processed, nasty, and foul, but they are "approved" practices.

    October 8th, 2010 5:51 am Reply
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    October 8th, 2010 12:48 pm Reply
  • Stanley Fishman

    Ray,thank you for helping to expose yet more misinformation from Snopes. The way they treated you was despicable,and the arrogance they showed is revolting.

    Snopes is always defending big corporations, big agriculture, big pharma, big everything. Their claim that they are "the experts" and we should blindly believe everything they say because they "are the experts", is ridiculous.

    We should reason, research and think for ourselves, not depend on self proclaimed "experts" who support the party line on everything.

    October 9th, 2010 6:52 pm Reply
    • D.

      I agree about Snopes.com They are downright fraudulent in their advice at times. But just try telling them about it and you’ll get the whole of their wrath! I wonder what makes Barbara think she is such a know-it-all? It’s all opinion based, not fact based, AFAIC. Mere hot air from a couple of wind bags.

      Yes, that awful pink slime and some other junk like it is produced in my home State of SD. There are “meat glues” and other stuff which are so nauseating to talk about it makes me gaggy just to think about it.

      June 29th, 2011 12:49 pm Reply
  • move4less

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    November 2nd, 2010 10:52 am Reply
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  • Jennifer

    I have heard about this before. My question is this: are there any good hotdogs? Trader Joes sells the nitrate and nitrite free ones, would those be okay? Just curious.

    October 11th, 2011 6:16 pm Reply
    • Helen

      I think your best bet are kosher hot dogs, or the ones that a number of companies are marketing now (at least in Canada) that have not fiollers and are made with meat. I’m not familiar with Trader Joes, but anything that has only meat in it, no fillers, and no nitrate that turns into nitrite, have go to be an improvement over the ordinary ones. There have been a few problems with meat packing/processing here in Canada, and my DD refused to buy anything Maple Leaf sold, for months afterwards. Caveat emptor, and read your labels.

      December 29th, 2011 3:24 am Reply
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