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