Consumers who buy frozen supermarket meat pies for dinner could find themselves eating a less than appetising mix of fat, minced gristle, connective tissue and offal, according to a recent survey by the Australian Consumers' Association (ACA).

Published today [Tuesday] in the ACA's journal Choice, the analysis of 22 brands of meat pies commonly sold in four- and six-packs will give shoppers something to chew over.

Three brands of frozen supermarket meat pies, Patties, Tastee and The Great Southern Pie Company, did not contain the required 25% meat content to pass as meat pies. The remaining 19 only contained between 25% and 31% meat.

The most disturbing news was that the definition of meat is wide and varying. Under the Australian Food Standards Act, "meat" does not simply indicate steak from animals' muscle flesh.

It could come from almost any part of an animal, including fat, gristle, offal and scraps removed from bones. And it could come from a wide range of animals, including camel, buffalo, deer, hare, pig, poultry, rabbit, sheep and goat.

Gail Kennedy, from the ACA, criticised this definition, saying it even allowed for manufacturers to increase the meat content by adding protein boosters such as textured vegetable protein.

Two of the three 'meatless' pie manufacturers dismissed the study as unscientific, Tastee Pty Ltd and Patties Pies Pty Ltd saying it conflicted with external audits of their pies.
 
The Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) and the Victorian and NSW governments said however that they would be examining the survey's results and possibly tightening enforcement of food standards.