How are chicken wings, nuggets and frankfurters made?

Do you know what recomposed meat and mechanically separated meat are? This is how chicken wings and nuggets, frankfurters and more are (often) prepared!

Above all in America, the consumption of chicken wings, croquettes and frankfurters is at levels that are difficult to approach in other parts of the world: these dishes are produced by many chains reaching record numbers especially in particular periods of the year (for example during the Super Bowl they are usually consumed over 1.5 billion fins). When the demand is so high and companies have to minimize waste to achieve maximum profit… here comes recomposed meat and mechanically separated meat.

But let’s see in more detail what they are!

Chicken wings
Chicken wings

What is recomposed meat

Recomposed meat is obtained by grinding different parts of meat together with water, gelatin, enzymes and additives such as potato or wheat starches, used to give the mixture the desired consistency. This process is commonly used for the production of chicken croquettes, but also for cutlets, raw and cooked ham. However, this method can be applied even fishIn fact, many frozen products such as fish sticks or fillets can be made (in whole or in part) with recomposed meat. Surimi is an example of a recomposed meat product, which it may contain up to 70% potato starch or other thickeners. As explained on Cucchiaio last September.

Chicken wings and nuggets: foods where recomposed meat is used

The so-called chicken wings that we eat are not made up only of wings, but also of other parts of the animal, such as the shoulder, the cartilage and the meat present between the various small bones. Furthermore, in boneless chicken wings, which are very common in fast food, the meat does not come from the wings themselves but from the breast, and are often added flavourings to give the product the flavor desired by the consumer.

As for chicken croquettes, these usually contain white meat obtained from the breast or pectoral muscles of birds, but also other parts such as tendons, bones, nerve tissue and fat, which are all ground together before being molded into the nuggets we know so well. In one study published in the American Journal of Medicine a few years ago, chicken nuggets from two major food companies were found to contain more fat than meat, along with bone, nerves, and other tissue.

What is mechanically separated meat

Mechanically separated meat is the main basis of frankfurters, especially chicken ones. The manufacturing process involves squeezing the bird carcasses, followed by grinding and sieving to remove any bone residue. The resulting compound has a pink color and is used for product packaging.

Although mechanically separated meat is not harmful to health and is regulated by food safety laws, its nutritional properties are minimized and the salt content is very high.

Beware of food labels

Never underestimate the labels: it is mandatory to indicate the presence of these ingredients on the label, with the initials CSM or CRM (mechanically separated meat or mechanically recovered meat). This is particularly important for products such as stuffed meatloaf or tortellini, where these ingredients may be used. To ensure we know exactly what we’re buying, it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to check the label before consuming the product.

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