Listeriosis Aside, What Is Polony Actually Made Of?

Ever wondered what's really inside this common cold meat?

Cally Silberbauer |

Considered the largest outbreak of listeriosis that the world has seen so far, this news is definitely stirring up a mild panic. And the culprit? Polony… in the kitchen… with a knife.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi made the scary announcement on Sunday afternoon that an Enterprise Foods factory in Polokwane has been confirmed as the cause of the listeriosis outbreak. Woolies started the ball rolling with the #recall of all Enterprise products. Processed meats such as polony are to be avoided – like the plague.

Related: 15 Horrifying Facts About Processed Meat

But while we are on the topic, what actually makes the, ahem, cut, when it comes to making polony? I’m pretty sure you’ve all wondered…

After imagining what gory things might end up in a good old polony, I contacted Carla Du Toit, a food scientist. As part of her studies, she has actually made polony, so she’s had first-hand experience in the matter.

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It’s What You Put In…

So what does go into a polony? Polony can be made of most meats. Enterprise divides their polony into chicken and pork, but meats such as turkey and beef would work just as well. Unlike your horror imaginings, it’s not the beaks, feet and tails that get crushed into a paste!

The parts used are generally described as off-cuts. Du Toit explains: “When you fillet a chicken, you take the breasts, the wings, the drumsticks… [What’s left for polony is] all those little pieces of meat that aren’t a specific cut.”

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And The Rest?

Polony is made up of a portion of mechanically recovered meat (MRM). Before you freak – this it simply the mechanical process of removing those last little bits of meat from animal bones or poultry carcasses. The bulk of the meat has already been manually removed.

Yes, there is also a percentage of offal (basically the intestines and some organ meats, such as kidney and giblets), but the max used is 35 percent. Round that all off with some fat, some starch and oil, and, you’ve got yourself a polony. 

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Quick note: Polony is required to contain no bone, cartilage or grittiness as stipulated in our country’s processed meat regulations.

Carla’s take on it? She has no problem with eating polony. “I’ve seen how they make it and this listeriosis thing is just really unlucky,” she concludes. There you have it.

This article was originally published on

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