Chicken Nuggets: “Parts is Parts”

Posted on October 10, 2013


For the past few days, the headlines have been screaming about the content of fast-food chicken nuggets.  Ever wondered what’s in there?  Well, some enterprising scientists put some under the microscope to find out, and now we’re acting all surprised to find that the mysterious nuggets are less than half meat.  At least, what most people think of as meat.  The rest is blood vessels, nerve tissue, fat, cartilage, and even bone.

Okay, mystery solved.  At least the scientists have not announced that the nuggets were made of rat meat, as one might find in China.  Not only is this not a food-safety issue, it’s really not even a surprise.  I mean, have you ever really looked at the inside of a nugget?  Princess Kimmyton already had this figured out two years ago on her blog, Everything Food and Cooking.


And then there is this hilariously memorable Wendy’s ad, from about 30 years ago.  Come on.  We knew back then that fast-food chicken sandwiches, much less the nuggets, were “parts.”  You know, kind of like sausage.  You try not to dwell too much on the snouts and whatnot.

But like a lot of things in life, every generation has to rediscover these little truths for themselves, and now it seems that some folks feel like they have been woefully misled.  First we have nutritionists pointing out that chicken breast meat is regarded as a good, generally low-fat source of protein (true!), and then we have folks like Ashley Peterson spouting assertions like, “Chicken nuggets are an excellent source of protein, especially for kids who might be picky eaters.” (uh…)  So of course we all thought that chicken nuggets are a great thing to feed your kids!  Who would ever have suspected otherwise?

Ahem.  Well, I’d say Ms. Peterson’s claims about the protein content of nuggets could be just a smidge biased.  As a representative of the National Chicken Council, she’s got chicken sales to promote, after all.

Secondly, just how lean and healthy did we think anything breaded and deep-fried might be?  You only have to look at the outside of a nugget to know it’s got a pretty generous fat content.  I mean, when you order fish n’ chips, you don’t expect it to be a replacement for broiled fish and a baked potato, do you?

Finally – as the study’s lead author points out – just because something is cheap and convenient, and even if it is “marketed to kids,” that doesn’t let parents off the hook of responsibility.   The nutritional information consumers need about the nuggets is available for those who want to look.  “We just don’t take the time to understand basic nutritional facts,” he said.

So, bottom line:  if you don’t want your kids’ nutrition coming from something that’s basically a breaded, deep-fried chicken sausage, choose something else.

Apparently, as this video shows, some folks have a hard time choosing something else… all I can say is, don’t do this.