Food and Building Materials Merge With Perdue's Wood Composite Chicken Nuggets

Public Domain. USDA

We have been saying for years that building materials should be healthy and high fiber like the food we eat, and now Perdue delivers.

Perdue became the first national brand of chicken, thanks to Frank Perdue's brilliant ad campaign with the slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken." He handed over the company to his son 25 years ago, but they are still innovating today. We were just writing last week that building materials should be almost edible, that they should be natural and high fiber.

And now Perdue has introduced an organic, gluten-free chicken nugget with wood as an ingredient. This could be the start of a new trend: truly edible building materials. Alas, Perdue may have jumped the gun on releasing this product, because the USDA has demanded a recall all 68,244 pounds of the nuggets. I suppose it takes a tough man to reinvent building materials, and Frank died in 2005.

The serious thing about this is that we really should think of our building materials the way we do about food. Years ago, after Michael Pollan's book Food Rules came out, I wrote Why Plastic Foam Insulation Is Like a Twinkie: Lessons Green Builders Can Learn From Michael Pollan and I modified the appropriate food rules and applied them to building materials. It is more relevant than ever.

Promo image. Twinkies

Twinkies/Promo image

Green Building

Food Rules

Rule 2. Don't eat build with anything that your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food a building material.

People used to know how to build with materials that lasted hundreds of years. Terazzo instead of vinyl. Brick instead of vinyl. A whole world of materials instead of vinyl. It's true that they didn't pay a lot of attention to insulation, but when they did, there was cork and rock wool and cellulose even then.

3. Avoid food building products containing ingredients that no ordinary human being would keep in the pantry workshop.

Really, have you looked at Ken's list of chemicals that go into foam insulation? Sure, they have been part of a chemical reaction and are probably no longer as bad as they are on their own, but do you want them in your house?

6. Avoid food building products that contain more than five ingredients.

Here is a plea for simplicity. These become very complex substances that may be full of ingredients approved in North America but rejected in Europe, where the REACH program is much stricter than American controls. Who's right? Why are you willing to risk it?

7. Avoid food building products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.

Same idea, keep it simple. You are a builder or a designer, not a chemist.

11. Avoid food building products you have seen advertised on television...

...or in the endless trade magazines and shows where Dow and all the other huge chemical companies that are conspiring in Washington to kill green building standards are marketing their stuff. [This was written at a time when green building was under attack by the chemical industry.] We should be boycotting any member of the so-called American High Performance Buildings Coalition, not specifying their products. Their shenanigans in Congress are enough to knock them off any green builders' list of acceptable products.

14. Use food building products made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.

Pollan writes:

Read all the ingredients on a package of Twinkies or Pringles and imagine what those ingredients actually look like raw or in the places they grow. You can't do it. This rule will keep all kinds of chemicals and foodlike substances out of your diet.

We are never going to get rid of all these chemicals and plastics from green buildings, any more than we are going to get rid of all additives from food. Some have very useful functions and some, like vitamins in our diet or plastic sheathing on electric wiring, are even good for us. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to minimize their use and, where there are healthy alternatives, choose them instead. I suspect that pretty soon that is what your clients will be demanding.