tatjna (tatjna) wrote,

In which I have a look at what's going through the grinder.

This morning someone on my friends list mentioned processed chicken. Now, given that the only chicken I really have anything to do with these days comes in packets from the supermarket* but still looks like chicken (you know, a headless featherless footless gutless one, but still a chicken - or, chunks of chicken like breasts and legs and things), I hadn't much clue what processed chicken was. So I looked it up.

Yes, I know, you're all going "WTF Tats, why did you have to look this up, use your brain duh." But I wanted to know what was in it and how processed - because you know, mince meat is processed beef and so is dog food, but only dog food has lungs in it.

According to Yahoo answers, it's where the bits of meat left on the carcass after the breasts and legs are taken off, get stripped from the bones with a machine, then mooshed together into patties and nuggets and things. Now, the nuggets you can buy in our supermarket usually have batter on as well - I'm not sure if battering counts as part of the chicken-processing process or not.

Thing is, as far as the scrappy bits of meat on the chicken carcass go, they are still real chicken. You know, in our house the carcass gets picked over pretty thoroughly for those yummy morsels before we're done with it. But there are all sorts of theories about what processes this real chicken goes through to become your nightly nugget. Enter Snopes to explain the mechanical separation of meat for us, and how you probably shouldn't just believe everything you read on the internet. So no, your nuggets aren't bathed in ammonia - at least in the US they aren't. They might contain tendon and cartilege - but if you're grossed out by that then I wonder why you'd eat meat at all, y'know?

But what about other additives? Well, it turns out that in the US, any additives must be put on the label. According to The Guardian, there are a vast number of additives that go into food, but weirdly when it talks about processed meats, it only has this to say: "Made from the last scraps of meat and offal left on the carcass after the more nutritious** cuts of meat have been removed, it goes through a number of processes in order to make it palatable." Which doesn't really tell you anything. Here in New Zealand, Sue Kedgley has compiled a handy-dandy list of what goes into processed foods and what it's for, what it does etc - but you have to read the whole thing to get any inkling of what's in your nugget. Or you could read the label and then refer to the list, which would probably be simpler.

So my conclusion from all this is that reading the labels on your food is a damn good idea if you eat much processed stuff. Certainly the three countries I looked at all have laws requiring additives to be declared. But apart from the additives that you can check, unless you are in a country that doesn't have strict food laws, your chicken nuggets are actually chicken, and it's meat and tendons, not guts and heads.

* Once upon a time I raised my own chickens. They were free range and organic and all that good stuff. Thus, they hid their nests so eggs were a rarity and often rotten by the time I found them, and spent their time between scratching up my seedlings, pecking holes in my broccoli, and crapping in my porch. One day I'd had enough and killed them all and ate them. Supermarket chicken is easier.

** I fail to see why a large cut of meat is more nutritious than the little sliver that's left on the bone after you've cut the large bit off. It's still meat. I guess they mean the tendons and gristle and stuff.

In other news, Dr Wheel will be at Fidels tonight. This is nice, especially for all those who had to put up with me bouncing around going ONEMOREDAYOMGSQUEE last week. Also, I handed my essay in and I am now intellectually free until Monday, when I get back into the BZP analysis stuff. One day I will be free to think about kittens for weeks on end!
Tags: dead chickens are good chickens, nom nom additives, what's in mah foodz?
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