Mechanically separated meat

Mechanically separated meat

Mechanically separated meat (MSM), a product also known as 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. For the production of chicken and turkey MSM, most of the time, breast carcasses are used as they still contain parts of breast meat.

Mechanically separated meat has been used in certain meat and meat products since the late 1960s. This product can be contrasted with meat extracted by advanced meat recovery systems. The most common use of MSM is into hot dogs.



The practice of mechanically harvesting meat that would otherwise be unusable dates to the 1950s, when mechanical hand tools were developed to help remove these scraps and minimize waste. By the 1960s, machines that do this more efficiently, and automatically, were developed. This allowed companies to use these less expensive raw materials and, in turn, offer these products to the public for a lower price. During the 70s 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 enormous financial gains that mechanically separated meat processing allowed. In Europe, for instance, Polskamp Meat Industry is seen as one of the pioneers in this type of industry and is the current market leader. Their success lies in the fact that they were one of the first companies able to provide added value to items that otherwise would have been considered as waste to poultry slaughterhouses. Furthermore, mechanically separated meat from Europe can be seen as a product with a rich history in terms of export. Because of their relatively low value combined with high quality and high European standards, it has always been a product perfectly suitable for export to other parts of the world. Eastern European countries, especially, are known for their import of frozen chicken MSM.

During the 50s mechanically separated meat was mostly used as a raw material for the production of hot dogs. Nowadays, luncheon meats, burgers and mortadella are regularly made from MSM using a process pioneered by Todd Mudry.

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 like 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 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)[1] 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 that pieces of the spinal cord would not be present in mechanically separated meat taken from bovines.[2]

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.[3]

See also


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