GROUND POULTRY IS A STAPLE IN MY HOUSE. In the summer, we grill turkey burgers and as the weather grows cooler, I make a lot of chicken or turkey chili. Ground poultry is relatively inexpensive, flexible, and has less fat than ground beef.
But last time I made chili, sudden visions of Jamie Oliver’s chicken nugget experiment sent me scampering to the garbage to check the label of my meat: Ground Chicken.
UH, WHAT EXACTLY DOES THAT MEAN?
Before I get into what the USDA web site says, note that the same label descriptions I wrote about for eggs hold true for poultry meat – organic, cage free, vegetarian, etc.
Now, here’s what the USDA web site has to say about ground poultry.
- There are no regulatory standards for ground poultry products. The same rules apply as for “boneless poultry”: the product must be completely comprised of the kind of poultry indicated.
- Ground Turkey/Chicken: When the product is labeled “Ground (Kind)”, it is made from whole muscle material (drumstick, thighs, neck, etc.) with all the skin, fat, and other components included.
- Ground Turkey/Chicken Meat: If a cut of meat is identified on the label, only that cut can be in the product. For example, “Ground Turkey Meat” can’t contain skin, just meat.
- Ground Turkey/Chicken Breast Meat: Same as above. If the cut is identified, the product can only contain breast meat without other cuts or skin.
- Fat content is only allowed in natural proportions. Only the fat found in the muscle material or skin can be in the product. No extra fat may be added.
- Nutrition labels are encouraged but not required unless the label states “lean” or “extra lean” in which case the nutrition label must be present and support those claims.
Then there’s mechanically separated poultry (MSP), which is used in hot dogs, nuggets, patties, bologna, etc. MSP is not the same as ground poultry. MSP is made by using high pressure machinery to crush the bones then force the bone and tissue through a sieve or screening device. The resulting substance has a “paste-like consistency and a cake-batter form.” Yum.
The bottom line: Make sure you get the ground poultry you really want — take the label literally. “Ground turkey” is different from “ground turkey meat” is different from “ground turkey breast meat”.