/ Food & Drink

Would you eat mechanically separated meat?

If you eat burgers, meatballs, sausages or chicken nuggets then it’s likely that you already have. There are strict rules on mechanically separated meat, and they’re about to get even tougher.

After meat is removed from a chicken there’s often a fair amount of meat left on the carcass. To minimise waste this is mechanically removed so that it can be used in other foods.

There are two types of mechanically separated meat: high pressure, which looks like a paste and can be found in products such as hotdogs; and low-pressure desinewed meat, which looks like mince meat.

The former high-pressure method is when the carcass is squeezed through a machine like a sieve, whereas the low-pressure method is when the carcass is put in a sort of tumble drier to ‘spin’ the meat from the bones.

Greater restrictions on desinewed meat

Desinewed meat has been produced in the UK since the mid-90s from poultry and livestock and has not been labelled separately from the ‘meat’ content on food product, whereas the high pressure mechanically separated meat has.

Due to the BSE crisis, high pressure mechanically separated meat cannot be made from beef or lamb bones. And just last month the European Commission (EC) enforced a suspension on desinewed meat produced from ruminant bones (that is, cattle, sheep and goats).

The Food Standards Agency has said that the UK will have to comply, otherwise a ban on the export of UK meat could be imposed. However, the meat industry has suggested that this would result in an increase in the price of meat products (like your burgers).

Under the EC ruling, desinewed meat can still be produced from poultry and pigs, but must now be labelled as mechanically separated meat, meaning it won’t be able to count towards the meat content of the product.

Tell me what meat I’m eating

Personally, I wouldn’t buy something that contained high pressure mechanically separated meat, and I think desinewed meat should have been labelled on products from the start.

If I buy meatballs I’d like to know where the meat has come from, otherwise when I see ‘80% meat’ I’m going to assume it comes from decent cuts. If that’s made up of desinewed meat without me knowing I could be paying an inflated price for meatballs that I might have thought were value for money

Our research last year suggests that many people feel the same. In our focus groups, most people understood that there was a spectrum of quality in meat products and that, dependent on the type of meat, they would get what they paid for. And although many wanted desinewed meat to be labelled on their products, many still felt it should count towards the meat content.

In short, the people in our focus group wanted increased clarity about the type of meat in their products, but they didn’t want the definition of the product or the price to change.

So what do you think about the ban on desinewed meat from cows, sheep and goats? Do you think it’s as bad as high pressure mechanically separated meat? And are you fussed about it being in your food products?

Would you eat mechanically separated meat?

No - not if I can help it (74%, 261 Votes)

Yes - I don't see anything wrong with it (17%, 61 Votes)

Maybe - only if it's the low-pressure desinewed meat (9%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 354

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Now, I must admit I play ignorance with such meats., I do love an occasional chicken nugget, sausage or Kiev. I’ll eat it as long as I don’t know where it’s come from.

Robint says:
16 May 2012

Hi Guys

My pal is a retired butcher and he first told me about “MRM” as its known in the trade and if consumers saw the brown sludgy product and how it was made they might not be so keen on products using this additive. I dont want to debate the ethical issue here but what I particularly object to is that the Industry deliberately hides the true content. MRM can legitimately (by the EU) be called meat on labels. So your sausage could say 60% meat etc and would likely be 50% MRM.

Personally I avoid any kind of processed meat product, sausages, nuggets, salamis, pies etc.

As a student I works in the Walls Meat pie factory in Southall needless to say ………….

Consumers have the right to know what they are eating – especially for kids food.

hilary sheppard says:
18 May 2012

I have read recently that GM is coming into the country, so try and read up what foods are at risk from contamination, feel its getting really scarey what we may be eating


GM food has attracted little comment on Which? Conversation. Here are links to a couple of relevant topics:



There is a definite need for labelling but I don’t really trust the food industry to be any more honest than they are about mechanically recovered meat.

J HAWLEY says:
19 July 2012

I will not eat any product that is not normaly sourced. Ie. Sausages, pork pies, burgers, etc. In doing so my overall diet has been seriously curtailed.

Loop Withers says:
10 February 2013

I don’t understand. Why are some people – no matter how rich or poor – wanting to eat low quality Mechanically Separated Meat and turn high quality horse meat into pet food?

Shouldn’t it be the other way round? Shouldn’t we feed higher quality food to our children than we do to our pets?

Spytron says:
2 September 2014

I know this topic is old but interesting to read.
As an ex farmer for 20 yrs we have know too well that the middle man. The supermarkets grab the most profit and the farmers and consumers may suffer in the end.
I would just say eat what you want with in reason but excersice regular and keep and eye on fat content in general. Bring back the old times when you grew your own veg and meat like chickens and shared things.