Chicken Nuggets Dissection Study: a Mix of Skin, Nerves, Blood Vessels and Bone

Chicken nuggets dissection study shows nerves blood vessels and bones present
A new study, performed by a Mississippi research group, suggests that there may be more to chicken nuggets than meets the eye

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.

Health Concerns

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

Famous pink slime picture showing mechanically separated poultry
The infamous “pink slime” picture, showing mechanically processed poultry

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

The American Journal of Medicine Source

NBC News Source

Reuters News Source

Gizmodo News Source

Business Insider News Source

Journal of Food Science and Technology Link

10 Responses to "Chicken Nuggets Dissection Study: a Mix of Skin, Nerves, Blood Vessels and Bone"

  1. Robert Davis   October 6, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Big bucket of golden brown nuggets used to love-it now please shove-it because I now no longer covet sick-in chicken nuggets!

  2. Honey Dew Moon   October 5, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    when I eat chicken, I eat the whole of what a chicken is made of. The skin, fat, blood vessels, connective tissue. I might get a piece of bone, when I eat porkchps I allways find bone bits. So this much I would think of as normal for a chicken nugget. The additives? Like you dont daily eat food with additives, Its in everything. Even whole foods unless organic, fruit has wax pestisides ect.

  3. David Arroyo   October 5, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    The additives are much more concerning than the ratio of protein/fat/connective tissue etc. Am I correct that the addition of ammonia is essentially accidental??

    • Richard Laughlin   October 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm

      No, they cleverly said “not used to soak”. They use gaseous ammonia completely on purpose. It seeps into the mixture because some of it condenses.

  4. Sean   October 4, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    I’m not surprised, and certainly not horrified. We know that a chicken nugget is not particularly healthy and has plenty of fatty tissue. If they found something other than chicken I may have been concerned. Knowing that there is tissue other than muscle in the nugget – who cares? Would you be shocked and horrified to know than a minority of tissue in bacon is muscle?

  5. Fred   October 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Garbage Food

  6. Edymnion (@Edymnion)   October 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    Um, that all sounds normal.

    They found muscle fiber, fat, nerves, blood vessels, skin, a few bits of bone, these are all things you normally find in *MEAT*.

    I mean, good lord people, you’ll find all that same stuff in a bucket of KFC, and yet you’re surprised to find it in your chicken nugget?

    • coño   October 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Would you go to outback and eat a steak that is 40-60% fat, vienes, and skin?

  7. sage   October 4, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Can we get the full list of ‘ingredients’ discovered; although I believe what is written will be sufficient to end my kids asking for this ‘food’ again.

  8. Brandi Tasby   October 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Never.. NEVER eating chicken nuggets again.. ick

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