Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mechanically Separated Chicken - or The Real Thing?

I hope you are all wondering what this is a picture of.  My first thought was that it was some kind of taffy.  That sounds really yummy, doesn't it? But it is actually a picture of something called mechanically separated chicken.

I became interested in what this was this week when I got out my small can of Tone's Chicken Base that I use in virtually all my chicken dishes.  This chicken base was recommended to me by a friend of a few years back, who was one of the most health/food conscious people I knew, so it had to be good, right? I was looking at it this week for the first time and noticed that the first ingredient was something called mechanically separated chicken.  Okay, so you do have to get the chicken off the bone, and it must mean that machines do it, so what was the problem?

I think the picture above shows you the problem with mechanically separated chicken.  According to this article in the Huffington Post not only should we have a problem with the weird color, but it has a weird taste, and must also be hosed down with ammonia to kill the bacteria.  It therefore will need artificial coloring as well as artificial flavoring and is destined to be in your child's (or your) next chicken nugget, hot dog, or bologna sandwich.

Actually the first tip off that this wasn't real food should have been the cardboard box they are feeding this pink snake into (and do you see the other cardboard boxes of the stuff sitting on the floor?)

So where do you get the real thing? Chickens can be purchased in your store, and many will even say from "family farms" which means absolutely nothing.  You can even find some labeled "organic" and that doesn't really tell you anything except the chicken feed was organic, not how the birds were raised.  The way birds are raised and their stress level is just as important as their feed. Certain changes occur in the guts of the chickens when they are stressed. These result in lower pH levels. When the pH level is low, harmful bacteria become more active as they get a favorable environment for growth. They start replicating rapidly and within a short span of time gain advantage.

 Stress-free birds are generally found on home farms.  You can raise them yourselves, or find a good poultry farm near you. Ask around, you can usually find a friend who will share a side of beef with you from someone they know well.  Check out these websites: and for listings in your area of local farms.  

Check your labels if you don't want to eat anymore cardboard box pink snakes!

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