FSIS Food Safety and Inspection Service
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700

Backgrounders/Key Facts

December 2002

Revised Directive for Advanced Meat Recovery Systems


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a revision of an existing directive to ensure that plants using Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) systems are following regulations designed to prevent spinal cord from entering the food supply misrepresented as meat.

AMR Process

AMR systems remove the attached skeletal muscle and edible tissues from carcasses without breaking or crushing bones. This machinery separates meat by scraping, shaving or pressing the muscle and edible tissue away from the bone. However, unlike traditional mechanical separation, AMR machinery cannot break, grind, crush or pulverize bones to separate muscle tissue. Bones must emerge essentially intact and in natural physical conformation.

The AMR process is used to produce meat from beef and pork carcasses. This process is not recognized for use with poultry because the small size and brittle nature of poultry bones would make it extremely difficult for machinery to separate the tissue while still leaving the bone essentially intact.

In January 1995, USDA’s definition of meat was amended to include product from advanced meat/bone separation systems. Meat derived from this method is comparable in texture and composition to meat trimmings and similar to hand-deboned products so it does not require special labeling. AMR product is labeled as “meat” on product labeling (i.e., “beef,” “pork,” “beef trimmings,” etc.). Since spinal cord tissue falls outside the definition of “meat,” product produced using AMR systems cannot contain spinal cord tissue.

FSIS Revised Directive

FSIS issued a revision to an existing directive that instructs inspectors at establishments using AMR systems to take routine regulatory samples to verify that spinal cord is not present in AMR product. If spinal cord tissue is identified then the product is misbranded under FSIS regulations.

The directive specifically requires inspection personnel to notify the establishment at the time they take a sample, allowing the establishment to hold the product being tested. If the tests identify the presence of spinal cord tissue then inspection personnel will withhold marks of inspection from the establishment's AMR product and tag the AMR system itself, meaning neither the product nor the equipment can be used until satisfactory corrective action has been taken.

If the establishment has distributed the sampled product then FSIS will request a voluntary recall. If the establishment has not distributed the sampled product, then inspection personnel will verify any action taken to correct the product, such as relabeling the product to meet FSIS regulations.

Inspection personnel will conduct follow-up sampling to verify that the establishment has taken appropriate corrective action. AMR production will not be allowed to resume until FSIS determines that corrective actions have been successful.

For More Information

  • Technical questions: Dr. Daniel Engeljohn, Director, Regulations and Directives Development Staff, Office of Policy, Program Development, and Evaluation (202) 720-5627
  • Media Inquiries: (202) 720-9113
  • Congressional Inquiries: (202) 720-3897
  • Constituent Inquiries: (202) 720-8594
  • Consumer Inquiries: Call USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-800-535-4555. The TTY number is 1-800-256-7072.
  • FSIS Web site: http://www.fsis.usda.gov


For Further Information Contact:
FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff
Phone: (202) 720-3897
Fax: (202) 720-5704

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