Okay, if you are on the Internet a decent amount you have probably seen the photo of mechanically separated chicken and perhaps the accompanying web page that provides a gross-out explanation of the product.
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.
The good folks at Snopes and some other places have looked into this and quashed some of the outrageousness of these claims. No, the eyes, guts and bones are not ground up. Mechanical separation is a process that facilitates removing remnants of meat from its bones and is perfectly legal and apparently safe when done correctly.
The USDA’s description of the process:
Mechanically separated meat is a paste-like and batter-like meat product produced by forcing bones, with attached edible meat, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue.
Mmmmm, I love my meat in batter form. Snopes does not address whether this is, in fact an accurate photo, but it sounds like it may be. That’s pretty gross, it doesn’t really need the panicky exaggerations.
Did you ever wonder why you can buy a package of hot dogs int eh grocery store for $1? Mechanically separated pork is why. Yes, it’s disgusting, but it points out the value of knowing what your food is made with. Conveniently, the federal government mandates that mechanically separated meats be identified on the ingredients listing. So if you don’t want to eat the stuff, read the label and don’t buy it.