News

Just what’s in that chicken nugget?

Just what’s in that chicken nugget?

CHICKEN? Researchers say it's not all white meat in fast food nuggets. Photo: Associated Press

By Kathryn Doyle

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Stand-up comedians have long joked that some things, like the actual components of chicken nuggets, are better left mysterious.

Recently, Mississippi researchers found out why: two nuggets they examined consisted of 50 percent or less chicken muscle tissue, the breast or thigh meat that comes to mind when a customer thinks of “chicken.”

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 authors write in the American Journal of Medicine.

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,” deShazo told Reuters Health.

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

The nuggets he examined would be okay to eat occasionally, but he worries that since they are cheap, convenient and taste good, kids eat them often. His own grandchildren “beg” for chicken nuggets all the time, and he compromises by making them at home by pan-frying chicken breasts with a small amount of oil, deShazo said.

“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 non-profit trade group representing the U.S. chicken industry.

According to the NCC, its member producers and processors account for about 95 percent of the chicken produced in the U.S.

“This study evaluates only two chicken nugget samples out of the billions of chicken nuggets that are made every year,” Peterson said. A sample size of two nuggets is simply too small to generalize to an entire category of food, she told Reuters Health.

Two nuggets is a small sample size, deShazo acknowledged, and some chains have begun to use primarily white meat in their nuggets – just not the particular restaurants he visited.

“Chicken nuggets tend to have an elevated fat content because they are breaded and fried. But it’s no secret what is in a chicken nugget – most quick service restaurants have nutritional information posted in the store or on their website,” Peterson said.

“And every package of chicken nuggets in the grocery store by law contains an ingredient list and a complete nutritional profile, including fat content,” she said.

The brief chicken nugget exploration was not meant to be an exposé of the chicken industry or fast food generally, but to remind consumers that “not everything that tastes good is good for you,” deShazo said.

He and his colleagues chose not to reveal which chain restaurants they visited.

Consumers aren’t necessarily being misled, since much of the nutritional information they need is readily available, he said.

“We just don’t take the time to understand basic nutritional facts.”

Recent Headlines

in Lifestyle

Amazon offers 3D printing to customize products

Fresh
A box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colorado on July 28, 2008.

Amazon will offer 3D printing services that allow customers to customize and build earrings, bobble head toys and other items.

in Lifestyle

U.S. doctor contracts Ebola in Liberia

Fresh
In this 2014 photo provided by the Samaritan's Purse aid organization, Dr. Kent Brantly, left, treats an Ebola patient at the Samaritan's Purse Ebola Case Management Center in Monrovia, Liberia. On Saturday, July 26, 2014, the North Carolina-based aid organization said Brantly tested positive for the disease and was being treated at a hospital in Monrovia.

American doctor, Kent Brantley, has tested positive for the tropical disease Ebola.

in Lifestyle

Pope Francis renews attack on mafia

Fresh
Pope Francis waves as he leads a mass at the palace of Caserta, former residences of the Royal House of Bourbon, in Caserta, southern Italy on July 26, 2014.

Pope Francis called for nature to be protected from criminal abuse during a visit in the southern Italian town of Caserta, near Naples.

in Entertainment

‘Lucy,’ ‘Hercules’ beat expectations at box offices

This image released by Paramount Pictures shows, from left, Aksel Hennie as Tydeus, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as Atalanta, Dwayne Johnson as Hercules, Reece Ritchie as Iolaus, and Rufus Sewell as Autolycus in a scene from "Hercules."

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" collected $44 million to win the domestic box office race, outmuscling "Hercules" which took in $29 million.

in Viral Videos

Baby elephant meets a cat

Elephant Meets Cat

Maybe this elephant is more of a dog lover?