Chicken nuggets are the staple serving of many a fast food restaurant, with vast numbers of chicken breasts being carved up, battered and served worldwide every year. However, many have questioned what truly lies beneath the bread crumbs and batter coatings. A group of Mississippi researchers have sought to dissect the constituents of this fast food favorite.
The Chicken Nugget Autopsy
Dr. Richard deShazo, a professor working at the University of Mississippi, has studied the components of chicken nuggets at two highly-frequented fast food restaurants. The startling results of his team’s work have been published in the American Journal of Medicine, with the paper imaginatively entitled The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads “Chicken Little.”
The team discovered, quite astonishingly, that the nuggets contained less than 50 percent chicken muscle tissue. The researchers collected a series of nuggets, which originated from two fast food outlets in Jackson, and ferried them back to their laboratory. The nuggets were then prepared for staining and microscopic analysis.
Upon investigation of the first nugget sample, half of the nugget was made up of chicken muscle. The remainder of the nugget, however, comprised of a conglomeration of fatty tissue and cartilage, interspersed with mashed blood vessels and nerves. In addition to this, the microscopic studies found the presence of cells that are located within the skin of chickens.
Matters worsened when team then moved on to their second prepared sample. Consisting of just 40 percent chicken muscle, fragments of bone were identified amongst the bulk of the sustenance, which included the fat and cartilage deposits that had been perceived from the first sample.
Speaking to NBC News, Dr. deShazo explains some of the problems associated with chicken nuggets. deShazo highlights that high calorific salt, sugar and fat constituents are introduced into the nuggets by food processing. He also points out that pure chicken muscle represents a healthy source of protein, but this is negated by the addition of adulterants.
When pressed on the issue of precisely where he picked up his studied nuggets, according to NBC News, Dr. deShazo was somewhat coy:
“I’m seriously not telling because the food lobby is a very powerful lobby.”
Meanwhile, speaking to Reuters, deShazo paints a disturbing picture of how some of the big food companies are resorting to using “artificial mixtures of chicken parts,” inferring that the end result cannot really be classified as chicken.
In defending the United States chicken industry, the National Chicken Council (NCC) sought to downplay the implications of deShazo’s latest study. Ashley Peterson, the NCC’s vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, stated that the study was limited by inclusion of only a select sample of nuggets.
Peterson also indicates that restaurants are not attempting to conceal the contents of their food products, with most sellers advertising nutritional information in-store, or on their websites.
However, deShazo confessed that his sample size was very small, and pointed to the fact that some fast food outlets have improved their practices by selling nuggets that contain white meat.
Other Horror Stories
This is not the first time that horror has been struck into the chicken nugget lover. Gizmodo reported that mechanically separated poultry was being ground down into what was
dubbed “pink slime,” or poultry paste. They also suggested that, in an attempt to cleanse the bacteria-riddled chicken carcasses, they were then subjected to ammonia, and then artificially reflavored. The pink slime is then said to be dyed with a colorant.
Delving a little deeper, the Business Insider explained that entire chicken carcasses were not actually ground into the pink mass. What’s more, they reported that ammonia was not used to soak the mechanically separated poultry, but explained that some ammonia does indeed leak into the mix.
Mechanically separating meat is a means of recovering a greater quantity of meat from the chicken carcass. Before this automated process existed, much of the chicken went to waste.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has previously claimed that mechanically separated poultry is perfectly safe to consume, although commercially distributed products that use the technique must provide notification on the ingredients statement.
An entirely different study, entitled characteristics of chicken nuggets as affected by added fat and variable salt contents, found similar results to deShazo’s research. After dissecting a series of chicken nuggets, the researchers established that fat, nerve, connective tissue and bone were all present within the food source, in quantities that were at least equal to the amount of chicken muscle present.
Ultimately, the chicken nuggets dissection study has found horrifying mixtures of fat, bone, nerves and blood vessels, in line with findings from previous research. It is difficult to say, with any certainty, whether the team’s conclusions will have any impact upon the average consumer’s mindset, or the practices employed by major food companies.
What are your thoughts? Sound off in the comments section, below.
By: James Fenner