Understanding ground poultry
Corinne Powell October 15, 2012 1:16PM
Updated: December 16, 2012 1:35AM
Q. What is ground
A. There is no established regulatory standard for “ground poultry,” “ground turkey,” or “ground chicken.” However, the regulations on “boneless poultry” apply — the product is composed in its entirety of the kind of poultry indicated and the form of the boneless poultry must be labeled. The identity of the raw material and the physical nature of the end product are used in identifying “ground” or “comminuted” poultry.
Q. What cuts of poultry are permitted in ground poultry products?
A. The National Turkey Federation has prepared guidelines for identifying “ground poultry” with which USDA is in general agreement. In essence, according to these guidelines, when a product is labeled as “ground”, it is manufactured from whole muscle material such as drumstick, thighs, neck, etc., with all components, e.g. skin and adhering fat, in natural proportions, and the final product has a “ground” form as it emerges from the processing machinery.
Q. How much fat is permitted in ground poultry?
A. There is no standard regulating the amount of fat that ground poultry may contain. However, since meat and skin can only be present in no more than natural proportions, the amount of fat contained is self-limiting. In general, it is about 10 to 15 percent fat by weight. A turkey carcass contains about 15 percent skin and a chicken carcass contains about 20 percent skin on the raw basis. No extra fat may be added.
Q. What does the color of the ground poultry indicate?
A. Color may be an indicator of the type of meat used in the product — darker pink means more dark meat was used and a lighter pink means more white meat was included (or skin was included). Color is a factor of the part of the carcass from which the meat is derived.
Q. Is ground poultry the same as mechanically separated poultry?
A. No. Mechanically separated poultry is a poultry food product produced by high-pressure machinery that separates bone from poultry skeletal muscle tissue and other edible tissue by first crushing the bone and then forcing bone and tissue through a sieve or a similar screening device. The result is a blend of soft tissue with a paste-like consistency and a cake-batter form. The final paste-like material has a physical form and texture that differs materially from other boneless chicken and turkey products that are deboned by hand.
In November 1995, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a rule requiring labels to list mechanically separated poultry as an ingredient in processed products such as hot dogs and bologna as “mechanically separated chicken or turkey” instead of simply “chicken” or “turkey.” This requirement went into effect on the labels of products that include mechanically separated poultry as an ingredient in November 1996. Mechanically separated poultry is a safe and wholesome food product with nutritional characteristics similar to ground poultry. Because of its cake-batter texture, it is ideally suited for use in hot dogs, bologna, nuggets, patties, sausages and luncheon meat-type products.