Saturday, January 21, 2012

What's Really in a Chicken Nugget?

I bet you're all familiar with them -- the tasty little morsel loved by children and adults alike, the chicken nugget. Little chunks of tasty fried meat perfectly piled in that cardboard serving tub, ready to be dunked in ketchup, honey mustard, or barbeque sauce, then devoured and enjoyed for their strangely delectable flavor.  As a kid I loved those little things, and loved every chance I got to have a 6-8 piece meal of them.  But even then I knew something, something that you probably all know too.  Chicken nuggets don't really taste like chicken, do they?  No, they resemble something else, kind of like they're their own flavor, and that maybe they should just be called "nuggets" instead of dragging the word chicken along.  And maybe this realization has lead to the inevitable question:  So what's really in a chicken nugget?

To be honest, I'm talking about chicken MCNUGGETS to be exact.  I'm sure you all already knew that, especially because those little pieces of yummy goodness seem to go hand in hand with the golden arches.  I've got bad news for you folks, you might not like what you hear about these things.  This may come as a shock, but they're very artificial, and extremely unhealthy.  

What?  No shock? Well then....

First, let's discuss what the main substance is that's used to make the nuggets.  It should be chicken, right?  Well it is....kinda.  It is more nowadays then it used to be at least.  You see, back in the day, chicken nuggets used to be made from something called "mechanically separated chicken."  This stuff was basically the product of a cost effective solution to get more chicken for your money.  The chicken is basically stripped perfectly clean off the bone via huge amounts of pressure, and comes out as this strangely pink paste:

Lovely, isn't it?  But it isn't done yet, oh no.  Next, because it's covered with bacteria, it's washed with ammonia.  Then it's dyed, because of the nasty pink color.  Then it's flavored, because how the heck would this stuff ever taste good?  All that's left to do now is fry it up and serve it to all the loyal customers!

This stuff is even multi-use!  Read here:

"The resulting paste goes on to become the main ingredient in many of America's favorite mass-produced and processed meat-like foods and snacks: bologna, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni, Slim Jim-like jerkys, and of course the ever-polarizing chicken nugget, where the paste from the photo above was likely destined."

Now to be fair, McNuggets aren't made with this stuff anymore.  According to McDonald's, they're now only made with real "white meat chicken."  Great, just great.  Do you have any idea what ELSE is in these pop-able little morsels?  The ingredient list ain't pretty, to say the least.  In fact, some of the stuff that's in these things isn't even considered food by any stretch of the imagination.  Check these out:

Autolyzed Yeast Extract:  This stuff is pretty strange, and a bit too close to MSG for comfort.  No, it isn't exactly MSG, but it's made from a very similar process.  Basically AYE is the broken down components of yeast cells.  It's very controversial in the health world and avoiding it is certainly strongly suggested.

Hydrogenated Soybean Oil:  This is some stuff you'd best avoid like the plague.  It contains large amounts of trans fat, the worst kind of fat.  Our body can't do anything with trans fat, and therefore just plain stores it without a second thought (as fat of course).  The hydrogenated oils can't be broken down by our body and stick to our arteries, eventually clogging them up.  Doesn't sound too good, does it?

TBHQ:  If you're interested, the scientific name paired with this acronym is  Tert-Butylhydroquinone.  And surprise surprise, it's NOT food.  It's in fact a petroleum product that's used as a stabilizer in things like perfume, resin, and other oil-related substances.  In lab tests it has shown to be a carcinogen in high doses, relating strongly to stomach tumors.

Dimethylpolysiloxane:  Yowser, another doosy.  This ingredient is actually a type of silicone, used in things like caulking and bathroom sealers.  In fact, it's pretty much used in all sorts of silicone products, even things like breast implants.  What the heck is it doing in chicken McNuggets?  Apparently it's used as an "antifoaming agent," whatever that means.  I don't want to eat it, that's for sure.

So there's a little look into how your favorite chicken treat is made, and what you can expect inside that beautifully breaded exterior.  Yummy stuff!  But what about the nutritional information?  Never fear, I'll post that too:

Nutrition Facts
Calories 46(194 kJ)
% Daily Value 1
Total Fat3g5%
Sat. Fat0.5g2%
Trans Fat0g
Total Carbs.3g< 1%
Dietary Fiber0.2g< 1%

That information is for ONE PIECE, a 10 piece meal has 470 calories.  So what do we see?  Aside from a decent amount of sodium (a 10 piece meal has 900 mg), nothing looks to be that out of the ordinary.  It's high in fat, low in sugar, and relatively low in protein compared to a grilled chicken breast.  So you have to understand that the danger of these things is how they're made, and the ingredients that go into them.  This is an important point.  Sure, that snack cake may only have 100 calories, but do you have any idea about the ingredients that go into it?  Those (or the ones in these nuggets) will NOT lend themselves to weight loss or long term health, that I can assure you.

Next time you make a trip to McDonalds (it's been about 4 years for me), skip the nuggets.

Read the ingredients, eat REAL chicken, and as always, good luck!



  1. omg i used to love these nuggets and now, after reading your article i wish i never ate a single one Oo