A truly wild video has gone viral in recent weeks, showing what looks like a cut of writhing raw meat crawling off a plate at a restaurant. But there's likely more to the video than meets the eye.
The clip has gained coverage from tabloids and other news sources, often dubbing the slab of meat a "zombie chicken." It's just the latest in a long line of viral videos showing soon-to-be-eaten animals fighting back.
It's easy to see why this latest video has gotten so much attention: The clip is a mesmerizing, unnerving seven seconds of footage.
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The slab of meat begins at rest on a plate near the edge of a table. Then a protrusion — an arm, a leg, or perhaps a tentacle — pops out.
It flails wildly. People scream.
The meat scurries to the edge of the plate and then falls to the floor with an inaudible plop.
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But the origins of this video are difficult to trace.
There's little evidence the meat depicted is chicken, an expert told USA TODAY. And several eagle-eyed experts have questioned the legitimacy of the video.
Chicken expert: That meat isn't chicken
Dr. Amit Morey, an assistant professor of poultry sciences at Auburn University, warns viewers to be cautious.
"What they're showing is too extreme," he said to USA TODAY. "For a chicken to twitch, you have to immediately kill it and debone it and place it on the plate."
Raw chicken served at restaurants, Morey explained, has already gone through the full process of death after it's slaughtered. He said the chicken, by the time it was served, must have already gone through rigor mortis, causing its nerve endings to have already calmed down.
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"For something like twitching to happen or for a muscle to do something like that, it has to be done right then and there," he said.
He said that a more likely explanation is that the meat is a frog leg. Salt can cause frog muscles to contract and move around, making it look like it's still alive.
Frog expert: That meat doesn't look like frog
When Snopes.com fact-checked the video Friday, the site also suggested the meat could be frog. But at least one expert disagrees.
When Dr. John Wiens — a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona — first watched the video, he was stumped and amused.
"I don't see how a frog could do that," he told USA TODAY, laughing. "What the hell?"
"I'm definitely not going to commit to it being a frog. Maybe a piece of fish or something?"
Wiens said that "whatever it is" has been skinned, making the identification process more difficult.
Whatever it is, he added, "really is disturbing."
Could it be fake?
The "zombie" chicken could very well just be a very convincing fake. Internet users have, time and time again, edited shaky camera footage to show shocking and otherwise wild images.
A shaky clip of an eagle snatching a toddler gained massive attention before Internet sleuths found out it was done using composite 3-D. Another viral video shows a woman getting slapped by a hefty fish — again, another debunked clip.
USA TODAY's own Robert Lindeman, a senior video editor, is convinced the video is doctored, noting the movements of the meat are too mechanical, unlike the "dancing" frog or squid. Plus, he said, the movement stops as soon as it hits the ground.
"The start and end of the video are a little too convenient," he said. "The pan to the left so you don't see any more movement raises flags ... I would get up close with my camera if that thing was moving."
As video technology begins to deploy AI and machine learning, video editing has only grown more sophisticated. Now, videos can be "deepfaked" to show former presidents swearing and celebrities' faces superimposed onto other people's bodies.
Then again, truth can be stranger than fiction, as was the case of the very large, very real chicken.
Follow Joshua Bote on Twitter: @joshua_bote
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Zombie chicken: Viral video of crawling raw meat likely isn't chicken