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Pink chicken goo

 mechanically-separated-chicken.jpg

A photograph apparently showing mechanically separated meat. (Courtesy of Fooducate)

It looks like soft ice cream or plastic foam. But the above photo showing a thick stream of bubble-gum pink goo spiralling out of a machine is apparently of mechanically separated chicken.

The resulting ick factor not only has people squirming, but has propelled the photo into viral status as blogs and Tweeters alike pick it up.

The photo first appeared on the food education blog, Fooducate, in 2009 under the headline, "Guess what's in the picture." It stated that the paste is a main ingredient in hot dogs, bologna, chicken nuggets, salami and other processed meat products.

Out of the blue, websites, including the Huffington Post, recently picked up the picture and it began making the rounds. The sudden interest caught Fooducate founder Hemi Weingarten off guard. "The internet is a strange beast," said Weingarten.

He can't remember where he got the picture from and questions have been raised about whether it is fake. Some bloggers, however, have pointed out that it is similar in appearance to other videos and photos of mechanically separated chicken.

In the end, Weingarten says, "Who cares? The whole point of my post was to teach myself and my readers what mechanically separated chicken is."

And the photo certainly has raised interest on the topic.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, mechanically separated chicken is defined as a "batter-like poultry product" made by forcing bones and edible tissue through a sieve under high pressure to separate the edible meat from the bone. It's a process that's been used since the 1960's.

A 1995 ruling found such poultry safe to eat and it can be used without restrictions. But products using it must label it as mechanically separated chicken or turkey in the ingredients list.

Limitations were placed on mechanically separated beef back in 2004, in order to protect consumers against mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Mechanically separated pork is allowed in the U.S., but hot dogs cannot contain more than 20 per cent. The Canadian government was not immediately available to comment on what the regulations are north of the border.

This video blog by chef Jamie Oliver gives a good overview of a homemade process that emulates mechanical separation - and this National Geographic blog shows it on a massive scale.

In Oliver's blog he learned a painful lesson: that some children will consume chicken nuggets or patties even if they know the disturbing process behind the tasty treat. 

What's your reaction to the picture and the two videos? Will it change your eating habits?

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