Kids love chicken nuggets, and many parents are happy to give them chicken nuggets because they seem like a simple, pure form of protein. Nuggets are quick and easy food with no bones and minimal mess, perfect for an emergency meal in the back of the car, or for picky eaters. One man (among many others, especially you TreeHugger readers) does not agree with the idea of nugget purity. Dr. Richard deShazo is a professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Mississippi, and he decided to look inside two chicken nuggets from different, unnamed fast food restaurants. When he and his colleague, pathologist Steven Bigler, dissected them, they were “floored and astounded.”
The so-called chicken nuggets had less chicken meat in them than deShazo thought. They found a combination of cartilage, skeletal muscle, intestinal tissue, organ tissue, fat, blood vessels, and bone fragments. (The internal pictures, originally published in the American Journal of Medicine, can be viewed here.) DeShazo and Bigler concluded that, “Chicken nuggets are mostly fat, and their name is a misnomer… because the predominant components aren’t chicken [meat]. It's a combination of chicken, carbohydrates, and fat, and other substances that make it glue together."
Anyone who has seen those horrific images of “pink slime” from the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. will not be surprised by deShazo’s discovery. There’s something inherently wrong with chicken nuggets for being so smooth, gooey, and processed. Chicken is not supposed to taste like that, but that’s what we get for eating “corn-fed-meat-wrapped-in-corn-preserved-breading-dipped-in-corn-sweetened-goo,” as Michael Pollan puts it poetically.
What’s more disturbing is how children have been brainwashed to crave chicken nuggets with irrational intensity. Chef Jamie Oliver did an experiment on his television show a few years ago, making chicken nuggets by chopping and blending a remnant carcass. The kids were disgusted, but still begged to eat the nuggets when they were finished. Oliver said, “Even though they know something is disgusting and gross, they’ll still eat it if it’s in that friendly little shape.”
That’s where parents need to step in, understanding that kids will eat almost anything if it’s presented to them properly. Processed foods may resemble whole foods, but they have limited nutritional value. The best thing is to stay away from fast food restaurants and minimize chicken nugget intake. Or just start calling them “glue nuggets” and your kids might not want them so badly anymore.