When I talk to kids about healthy eating, I always manage to get their attention with my little spiel on “the truth about chicken nuggets.” Do you like to think they consist of a tender piece of pure white chicken meat surrounded by tasty breading? If so, keep reading.
A recent study at the University of Mississippi Medical Center looked at slices of chicken nuggets from two fast food restaurants under the microscope. (This was a very small study and the chains were not named.) What they found “astounded” and “floored” the lead researcher, Dr. Richard deShazo. Chicken meat (or muscle) was not the major component of either nugget. Forty to 50% of the nugget was breast or thigh meat, with a nearly equally proportion being chicken fat. The rest contained bits of bone, cartilage, skin, and gut lining. Add to that the breading and frying of the “nugget” and you have a fat-laden hunk of animal byproducts. The scary thing is, kids love them.
DeShazo described the processing of the chicken carcass after most meat has been removed. It is vibrated so that all remaining tissues fall off the bone. This forms a “goo” (think pink slime that was recently in the media), which is formed into nuggets.
Keep in mind that because we’re not really starting with chicken and it’s natural flavors, a host of flavor-enhancing chemicals are added, along with everyone’s favorites – fat and salt.
Before I get off my soapbox for the day, I have to mention that it’s not just chicken nuggets consumers should be concerned about. The majority of the meat we buy in the grocery store and in restaurants has been produced in factory farms. We also import meat from Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and now China. A representative of the inspectors union in New Zealand, Ian Baldick, was quoted in a Washington Post article saying private company inspectors don’t properly oversee the production because the lines move too quickly. As a result, “tremendous amounts of fecal matter remain on the carcasses. Not small bits, but chunks.”
If you enjoy meat, take the time to know where it comes from. Support small farmers who raise poultry, beef, or pork organically. You can read more here: Top 10 Eco-Friendly Reasons to Buy Organic Meat & Dairy. Then do a bit more research to find reputable meat sources in your area. Farmer’s Markets are a great place to start. And, an added bonus, you’ll be amazed at how much tastier organic meats can be. They are worth every extra penny.
Decoded Science, What’s in Your Chicken Nugget: Ingredients Will Surprise You, October 7, 2013, by Janelle Vaesa.
Nutrition Facts.org, Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets, December 4, 2013, Michael Greger, M.D.
The Washington Post, USDA Pilot Program Fails to Stop Contaminated Meat, September 08, 2013, by Kimberly Kindy.
Chicken Girl, by Emily Brower – http://bebrower.blogspot.com/2013/02/chicken-girl.html