Mechanically separated meat
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Mechanically separated meat (MSM), mechanically recovered/reclaimed meat (MRM), or mechanically deboned meat (MDM) is a paste-like meat product produced by forcing beef, pork, turkey or chicken, under high pressure through a sieve or similar device to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue. It is sometimes called "white slime" as an analog to pink slime and to meat extracted by advanced meat recovery systems, both of which are different processes. The process entails pureeing or grinding the carcass left after the manual removal of meat from the bones and then forcing the slurry through a sieve under pressue. This puree included bone, bone marrow, skin, nerves, blood vessels in addition to the scraps of meat remaining on the bones. The resulting product is a blend of muscle (meat) and other tissues not generally considered meat. Critics sometimes claim that it contains "eyeballs and guts", but this is incorrect. The process is controversial; Forbes, for example, called it a "not-so-appetizing meat production process".
Mechanically separated meat has been used in certain meat and meat products, such as hot dogs and Bologna sausage, since the late 1960s. For the production of chicken and turkey MSM, most of the time, breast carcasses are used as they still contain parts of breast meat.
The practice of mechanically harvesting leftover meat scraps dates to the 1950s, when mechanical hand tools were developed to help remove the remaining pieces of meat and connective tissue from animal carcasses to minimize waste. By the 1960s, machines that do this more efficiently, and automatically, were developed. This allowed companies to use previously wasted materials and, in turn, sell the derived meat products to the public for a lower price. During the 1970s, these techniques became more common in other parts of the world, as well. In addition to poultry slaughterhouses, newcomers entered the market as they recognized the financial gains that mechanically separated meat processing allowed. Eastern European countries, especially, are known for their import of frozen chicken MSM.
During the 1950s, mechanically separated meat was mostly used as a raw material for the production of hot dogs. Currently, luncheon meats, burgers and mortadella are regularly made from MSM.
Safety and regulation
Questions arose in the 1980s as to the safety of mechanically separated meat. In 1982, a report published by U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on mechanically separated meat said it was safe and established a standard of identity for the food product. Some restrictions were made on how much can be used and the type of products in which it can be used. These restrictions were based on concerns for limiting intake of certain components in mechanically separated meat, such as calcium. Mechanically separated meat may not be described simply as "meat" on food labels, but must be labeled as "mechanically separated" pork, chicken, or turkey in the ingredients statement. Hot dogs can contain no more than 20 percent mechanically separated pork.
Concerns were raised again when the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) epidemic, commonly known as "mad cow disease", occurred in the United Kingdom in 1986. Since bits of the spinal cord (the part most likely to be carrying BSE prions) often got mixed in with the rest of the meat, products using mechanically separated meat taken from the carcasses of bovines were at higher risk for transmitting BSE to humans. As a result, in 1989, the United Kingdom tightened restrictions to help ensure pieces of the spinal cord would not be present in mechanically separated meat taken from bovines.
Similar USDA rules became effective November 4, 1996, and were later updated, stressing:
Due to FSIS regulations enacted in 2004 to protect consumers against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, mechanically separated beef is considered inedible and is prohibited for use as human food. It is not permitted in hot dogs or any other processed product.
- Lena Groeger (April 12, 2012). "And You Thought It Was Just ‘Pink’ Slime". ProPublica.
- Micky Meece, (12-04-2012). "Take a Look at 'White Slime,' a 'Pink Slime' Cousin". Forbes. Retrieved 17-04-2012.
- "Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy". USDA. March 2005. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
- "FSIS Further Strengthens Protections Against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)". USDA. March 2005. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
- "What is mechanically recovered meat". BBC News. 2001-08-09. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
- "Hot Dogs and Food Safety". USDA. August 24, 2006. Retrieved 2011-11-20.