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Matt:

My mom gave me a bunch of food that she emptied out of her pantry. One can is labeled potted meat food product. The ingredients are beef tripe, pork stomachs, beef hearts, chicken, partially defatted beef fatty tissue, beef, pork fat, salt, vinegar, flavorings, and sugar. What is this stuff? Is this the meat equivalent of that yellow stuff called processed cheese food spread? I tried to remember eating it as a kid, and luckily I can't.

-- R, Bay Park

Maybe the stuff kills memory cells. Strange brew. You're right about it being the equivalent of approximate-cheese. Basically, it's a precooked, spiced, pickled, spreadable paste of ground cow and pig parts. Serve it on crackers, if you dare. It's a way for meat processors to sell what, in less image-conscious times, was called offal. According to one meat-processing handbook, offal literally means off-fall, the leftovers that fall off the carcass as the meat is dressed.

Potted meat is any meat that's preserved (pickled or salted) in a container of some kind. As for the oxymoronic "partially defatted beef fatty tissue," that's the official USDA designation for protein solids that remain after fat is rendered from the scrapings and trimmings discarded in the butchering process. Mostly connective tissue and other vague sub-units of cow body. All in all, Mom's little surprise in a can is no more bizarre than some of our grislier sausages. Nothin' says lovin' like something from the meat-packing plant.

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