In pursuit of "artificial calamari"

Would you confuse calamari with…well…read the blog post. Photo by Some rights reserved.

Interesting and fun journalist-in-pursuit-of-elusive-story on This American Life this weekend.  Producer Ben Calhoun gets a tip that a box of hog rectums (recta?) – known as hog "bung" in the industry – is labeled as "artificial calamari".  He goes on a rather exhaustive search to see if whether bung is actually being served as calamari somewhere.

It's a cool story with twists and turns.  I had a couple thoughts:

In Argentina, people consume massive amounts of basically an upstream version of "artificial calamari", albeit from a different animal.  They're cow intestine, they're grilled, spritzed with lemon, and served as an appetizer to a traditional steak.  CHINCHULINES!  I've had them, and they're really not all that bad.  Especially when a good Argentine steak follows.

Also, Calhoun's story illuminates several interesting points about the industrial meat and seafood chain.  He mentions the recent investigation into mislabeled fish, or "seafood fraud".  And one of his sources, a meat processing plant manager, offers this money quote of how efficiently a modern pork processing plant works:

They separate the blood from the blood plasma.  They save that.  They save the lungs, they save the pancreas, they save the spleen, they save the heart.  The only thing left by the time its all said and done is the skull and the jawbone.

Calhoun's story is radio done well.  It's worth a listen, even if only to find out how hog bung calamari stand up in a taste test to the real thing.


  1. My uncle likes to tell the story of his days in a poultry processing plant. The operations were super efficient, and the waste from one product moved over to the next process….skeletons shaved to make ground chicken patties; stripped skeletons were pressure cooked to make bouillon; cooked bones were pulverized to create dog food additives, etc.
    One end of the plant produced frozen dinners, while the second line made pot-pies. At the end of the week, workers were allowed to purchase the products at a steep discount, before they were shipped. The pot-pie workers all bought frozen dinners; the frozen dinner people all bought pot-pies; nobody wanted to eat that stuff they, themselves were producing.
    I wonder what the pig bung calamari folks eat…

    • Nice anecdote, Michael!

      • After hearing this via BBC world which rebroadcasts
        TAM the question in my mind was – it wouldnt be
        boxed up and sold if it wasnt used and if it isnt
        used for artificial calamari then what is it
        being used for and is it food related?

  2. This story made me laugh out loud in my car all the way home. I'm extremely grateful I have been allergic to seafood for 30 years! Thanks for the story – it was awesome!