Chicken nuggets full of lots of non-meat

Bone, skin, blood vessels: Yep, that's what's in those chicken nuggets.
Posted By GABRIELLE LEVY,  |  Oct. 8, 2013 at 3:19 PM
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It's probably no surprise that chicken nuggets aren't exactly pure white meat, but your beak might hit the floor when you hear how little actual chicken meat makes up those tasty morsels.

In "The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads 'Chicken Little,'" a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, researchers from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson dissected chicken nuggets and examined them for their contents.

While the team, led by Dr. Richard D. deShazo didn't reveal which restaurants the nuggets came from, they did say the nuggets came from two national food chains.

Nugget No. 1 was 50 percent muscle tissue, from either the chicken breast or thigh. The rest? Fat, blood vessels and nerves, mostly from the cells that line the skin of the chicken's internal organs.

No. 2 was only 40 percent muscle, while the rest was fat, cartilage and bone.


Chicken nuggets come from a 1963 invention by Cornell University professor Robert C. Baker, which he called "chicken stick." The processed, breaded (and usually fried) glob of chicken bits could be formed into any shape.

The American Meat Institute, which operates, says chicken nuggets aren't typically made using what's known as mechanically separated chicken -- when the chicken is pushed through a sieve to separate the meat from bone.

And the National Chicken Council says transglutaminase, known as "meat glue," is not used to hold chicken together.

Ashley Peterson, the vice president of regulatory affairs at the NCC, called the "Chicken Little" study "infinitesimally small."

"Chicken nuggets are an excellent source of protein, especially for kids who might be picky eaters," she said.

Of the national fast food chains, only KFC says each "Original Recipe Bite" contains 100% breast meat, while Wendy's says its Chicken Nuggets are "all white-meat." McDonalds says its McNuggets are made "with USDA-inspected white meat," and Burger King's Nuggets are made "with premium white meat."

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