10 June, 2012

Potted Meat Is Nastier Than You Can Imagine

Of all the cheap canned pseudo-foods out there, the one that undoubtably resides on the very lowest rung of the ladder is Potted Meat (which was once upon a time called "Potted Meat Food Product.") I remember having bought it once long ago and being severely underwhelmed. 

Most of the time when I find Potted Meat, it's either Libby or Armour brand, and stocked on the shelves next to the Vienna Sausage. But at Dollar Tree, the Potted Meat has it's very own shelf, and different brands are sold side by side.

And that's how I found Brunswick Potted Meat With Crackers. How cool! It's just like having an entire lunch in one convenient package! Because the Brunswick kit came with Bryan Potted Meat, a brand I had never tried before, I also picked up a can of Armour Potted Meat so i could do a side by side comparison.

After I got the stuff home, though, I discovered that I really didn't need to compare these side by side. I noticed the USDA inspection seals - Both of them were made at Establishment P-4247. That's Pinnacle Foods, owner of the Armour brand as well as others like Hartford House and Hungry Man. Apparently, their plant is also making Potted Meat for sale under other labels...such as Bryan.  

The primary ingredients of Potted Meat these days are mechanically separated chicken, beef tripe, and salt. There are traces of seasonings and spices as well. "Mechanically separated chicken" is a meat product which celebrates the triumph of technology over nature. Chicken carcasses and bones which are left over from normal processing are forced through a sieve under high pressure, removing every last bit of meat from them. This makes the final product very finely ground and paste-like. 

The Brunswick lunch pack comes with a small Mylar packet containing five nondescript round crackers, a tiny plastic spoon/spreader for the Potted Meat, and the can of Bryan Potted Meat. There are a couple problems with this setup. First, five crackers are a totally stingy portion. Even with the Potted Meat heaped generously upon them, I still ran out of crackers long before running out of Potted Meat. And trust me, having enough crackers is critical to the enjoyment of this product. The texture of the Potted Meat is pretty horrendous. It's a slippery paste with a slightly granular feel (thanks to the tripe) with nothing to sink your teeth into. Putting it on a crispy cracker gives it a more pleasing texture along with a satisfying crunch. And when the crackers run out, it's a lot harder to be enthusiastic about eating a can of salty meat paste.

As for the flavor - well, if you've ever eaten a Vienna Sausage or some cheap bologna, you kind of know what Potted Meat tastes like. But not really because the flavor of the beef tripe really does stand out against the bland "white slime" chicken. And above all else, there's the salt: the choking, throat-parching salt - enough, it seems, to cause cardiac arrest.

Clearly, Potted Meat is virtually inedible on its own. And yet, there has to be a market for it - Armour wouldn't be producing so many cans of it if no one were buying the stuff.  Perhaps people are creating some of the various snackular dishes that Armour suggests on their website. Things like:

Tangy Spread  
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 8-oz pkg cream cheese, softened
Bread or assorted crackers 
Combine all ingredients, except bread or crackers; chill thoroughly. Serve on bread or crackers.

Party Pleasers 
1 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1/4 cup onion, diced
12 slices French Bread 
Combine first 4 ingredients, mix well. Spread mixture on bread slices. Broil 5-10 minutes, or until brown.

For more recipes, you can click here to go to Armour's website and follow their links to the recipes if you dare.


DrunkethWizerd said...

This product is incredibly popular with the Latina population in this area. That, and cheap ass jewelry from Avon.

Amy said...

Wow. That is so gross. Thanks for sharing!

TryIndy said...

My grandma loved this stuff w/saltines. I always had it growing up when visiting their house. I remember selecting it as my lunch on a number of occasions. I wonder what the adult me would thing of it? Might have to try it out.

Carol said...

That's what Billy Bob Thornton's character in Sling Blade ate. Potted meat and crackers that he got from the dollar store that he worked at. For some reason that always stuck in my head.

Dave said...

How does it compare to one of my least favourite canned meats - Underwood Deviled Ham? That be some narsty sh**.

BTW - there is also a product called "Underworld Be-Deviled Ham" which I have tried as my imagination won't let me go there.

Shawn Griffin said...

Potted meat is delicious to me. I believe that a person either develops a taste for it or never does. I ate this when I stayed at my grandpa house which was all the time when I was a kid. Grandpa ate it, when he was stationed overseas. The kid in me didn't much care for it. The adult in me loves it. Call it nostalgia. I call it tasty.

Tad Weaver said...

I haven't laughed this hard in a long Time. you made my evening. thank you!!

ThanxToTheAED said...

Tripe used to be the #1 ingredient followed by the "partially defatted pork...etc". Tripe went gourmet and so price went up. This poor man's offal, overnight was replaced with the ubiquitous "mechanically separated chicken puree...". What a shame. The two are as different as pistachio is to the lowly peanut. Lobster is to canned tuna. Tripe is high cuisine and the depth of flavor and fat of tripe makes their mechanically separated chicken substitution taste like chickeny sawdust ... an unworthy substitute. Potted meat until two or three years ago, was the best kept secret of closet gourmets. For thirty-three cents in a tab-top canister we had something that was hard to distinguish from fancy French country pate'. Rich, creamy, salty, fatty rich protein ready to be scooped onto a crusty brochette, crudités or chunk of room temperature brie. Dump the Libby's or Armour potted tripe onto a lettuce landscaped platter with tiny pickles, olives, walnuts and rustic bread and you'd pay $12.50 as an appetizer.

Posters who claim this stuff as processed rot-gut slaughterhouse waste are exposing their naivety and limited knowledge and instead propagate a geeky teenage response they assume alk others will embrace .. the "ewwwww, icky, gross yucko" typical reaction of someone without knowledge and lacking developed taste. These food rookies have been weaned on Velveeta, Pizza Hut and drive though. They equate chicken liver spreads, consune'd meats and pate's as disgusting settlements of the poor and needy gutter people. "Let them eat cake...!" and Cheetos . That's fine. All the more for us that know what's REALLY good eats.

Unknown said...

I am trying potted meat for the first time today, and yes, my curiosity was piqued from watching Billy Bob Thornton eating it in Sling Blade. It's not bad, but the saltiness is a bit overwhelming. If it had a little less salt it would be a lot better but as it is it's OK. Personally, I am thankful for people who have the ingenuity to use every last bit of an animal that would otherwise be discarded. A lot of people get to eat that otherwise wouldn't if all the meat that was leftover after regular cuts were removed from the carcass were thrown away. Would you rather see people starve while edible parts were sent to landfills?

David M. Asbill said...

I live in the deep South and was turned on to potted meat on a Saltine cracker when fishing Santee. Ain't nothing like it especially when you're on your last dime and it's a week until payday. Add some hot sauce, mayo on bread, hoop cheese slice, or dip some Saltines, Ritz, or tortilla chips into a can. When you're hungry, you'll eat almost anything. But Save-A-Lot sells the best brand I've come across, Hargis House, which is thicker consistency and less saltier and meatier tasting. I think it's made at the same plant as many others according the label.

Marcus Burns said...

Potted meat!
Can't be beat!
Ground up innards and pigs feet!
It tastes so bad, it makes me fart
Why the f*** did I buy an entire cart?!

L MAC said...

A favorite childhood memory growing up in AT-lanta, Ga. Libby's Potted meat sandwiches. Wow, I can taste them now! Fresh White Wonder bread (so fresh it stuck to the roof of your mouth) a thin smear of plain yellow mustard on one side and almost the whole can of Libby's Potted Meat spread neatly to all corners of the bread. Sometimes we made it with a slice of Vidalia onion. Yum, the best Saturday lunch that money could buy for 33 cents a can. Well heck, I just talked myself into a store run for Saturday's lunch!

Kath Urbahn said...

Me too. My favourite uncle was a WWII vet who loved it on saltines with Tabasco. He was a roughneck who ate this often on his out of town gigs, rather than spend a fortune on fast food or restaurant fare. I remember him sharing it with me when I was small.


I still love to eat it, and think of him.

As for the sodium counts, Uncle Dan's 91 years old and still kicking just fine, in perfect health. The nutritional numbers on typical fast food scares me much more than potted meat ever will! :)

tim wolf said...

I love potted meat on bread. I think it makes a good sandwhich!

MarkH said...

Potted meat tastes great and I have fond memories of from my childhood. Maybe it's not the most healthy snack, but it sure is good. And it's cooked, people go gaga over raw fish sushi and steak tartar but you won't get parasites from potted meat.

Billy C said...

Add a teaspoonful of your favorite mayo, blend and enjoy on a Ritz or saltine cracker. MMMMM good.

KKH said...

@thanxtotheAED: naivety? this stuff IS "processed rot-gut slaughterhouse waste". and i also do not eat pizza hut, velveeta or drive thru, so you can put THAT on a cracker too. as far as putting it on a platter with pickles and olives and charging 12.50? no, i dont think so. maybe you dont get out to a lot of restaurants these days? and i really dont mean that snarky, im just saying. there is a huge difference between a great pate make with artisan ingredients and fois gras, and this potted meat junk. the stuff looks like the canned cat food i give my kitty, and i just can NOT go there. kudos to your bravery for even trying this, author.

haha i think its hilarious that many people came here because of sling blade. i am watching it right now!

vj bart said...

i can remember having potted meat sandwiches, made just as you would a tuna sandwich, mixed in a bowl with mayonnaise and chopped up pickles.
LOTS of pickles.

Janet J. said...

One of my favorite sandwiches as a kid! I'm 64 now but still get a craving once a year or so. Salt content? No worse than other salt laden canned food, packaged foods..even foods considered "healthy". Salt, unfortunately, is everywhere. We just have to read all labels and minimize salt intake.

Richard Clay said...

In my experience homeless men (aka "bums") seem to buy alot of this substance. It is the cheapest meat related product you can buy. Maybe it's one step above pet food. Although the toxic level of salt makes it unusable for pets of any variety.

Benny Russell said...

You will eat anything when hungry enough. Hope you never need too.

Michael Suerth said...

I use to make a fortune off Potted Meat! I was a green beret combat infantry officer and thus was able to "hitch" a ride on a helicopter once a Month to the nearest air craft carrier off the coast of Nam. You see, once you are 12 miles off the coast, everything you buy at the carrier's commissary is duty free. At first I loaded up on whiskey and cigarettes (very cheap when there are no taxes to pay). I would sell all my stuff to Marines at a nice profit. I was told by the older Marines that they would kill for some potted meat. My next trip I bought a full duffel bag of potted meat. It sold before the booze and cigarettes. After that it was two duffel bags of potted meat, one of cigarettes, and two bags of booze. FIY The profits I made were used to rent a large house so that my men had a decent place to go to after a four week trek out in the bush.

sinisterx73 said...

I live in Seattle, WA now, but being originally from TX, potted meat (potty meat when we were kids) was fairly common among the lower income black and Hispanic communities. We fell in the lower income black category. My mom would buy it like it was going out of style. We'd eat it with a little mayo mixed in and spread it on bread for a delicious "potty meat samich." I'm only on this blog because I have some in my cabinet right now and wanted to see what other people thought about it. My wife and kids can't even fathom the idea of even trying such a thing. More for me. It's not sold anywhere in the Seattle area as far as I can tell, but you'd be surprised at what you'll find at the commissary on base. Potty on Wayne!

Yvette Garcia said...

I was doing a college assignment and found this... lovely excerpt. " As recently as 1967, twenty-two states did not require mandatory inspection of livestock before and after slaughter; and eight states had no meat inspection at all... These state plants were often peddling what was known in the industry as '4-D meat.' This stood for dead, dying, diseased, and disabled, and this meat obviously could not pass federal inspections. Large meat packers, such as Armour, Swift, and Wilson and Company, claimed that they were forced into operating these non-federally inspected interstate plants by competition from unregulated establishments." And I'm like... Armour... My mom eats that brand of meat as vienna sausages like they're going out of style. I always felt there was something especially off about them. So I looked it up. And found this. Delicious isn't it?

lisa.n.lee+3 said...

ROFL!!! You poor dude!!!

RorschachsPen said...

Potted meat... Been eating the stuff since I was in gradeschool. Found some at my grandparents place, threw it on some flatbread and fried it. Along with canned tuna, it has gotten me through a lot of sticky situations. I normally despise canned food served cold but this is the one thing I'll eat without heating. Flavor-wise, Armour is superior to Libby's.