Scientists reveal chicken nuggets are less than 50% chicken meat

A recently published study reveals that striated muscle is "not the predominate component" in the nuggets from two national fast food chains. In other words: chicken nuggets are less than 50% chicken meat. But... then... what "components" make up the other 50+ percent?

Top photo by Stéfan via flickr

"Fat was present in equal or greater quantities along with epithelium, bone, nerve, and connective tissue," write University of Mississippi researchers Richard deShazo, Steven Bigler and Leigh Skipworth in the September issue of the American Journal of Medicine. "Chicken nuggets are mostly fat, and their name is a misnomer."

Via Reuters:

The nuggets came from two national fast food chains in Jackson. The three researchers selected one nugget from each box, preserved, dissected and stained the nuggets, then looked at them under a microscope.

The first nugget was about half muscle, with the rest a mix of fat, blood vessels and nerves. Close inspection revealed cells that line the skin and internal organs of the bird... The second nugget was only 40 percent muscle, and the remainder was fat, cartilage and pieces of bone.

"We all know white chicken meat to be one of the best sources of lean protein available and encourage our patients to eat it," lead author Dr. Richard D. deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, said. "What has happened is that some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it and still call it chicken."

"Chicken nuggets are an excellent source of protein, especially for kids who might be picky eaters," said Ashley Peterson, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the National Chicken Council (NCC), a real-life, not-at-all made-up non-profit trade group, representing the U.S. chicken industry, that actually exists.

"It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar and fat that is a very unhealthy choice," deShazo fired back. "Even worse, it tastes great and kids love it and it is marketed to them."

Scientists reveal chicken nuggets are less than 50% chicken meat

"This study evaluates only two chicken nugget samples out of the billions of chicken nuggets that are made every year," Peterson told Reuters, leveling a completely valid criticism at the study's sample size while simultaneously conjuring the horrifying mental image of BILLIONS OF CHICKEN FAT NUGGETS.

The researchers, tragically (or perhaps mercifully?) chose not to disclose which chain restaurants they visited.

[The American Journal of Medicine via Reuters via Jason Bittel]

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