What’s in a Chicken Nugget?

The contents of a chicken nugget have long been discussed among consumers. Some are dying to know, while others think they’re better off not knowing.

Well, if you really want to know, Mississippi researchers have your answer.

“This is cartilage. This is gastrointestinal tissue. There’s all kinds of random stuff in there that’s not chicken meat,” Dr. Richard deShazo, a professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center said.

He, along with two other Mississippi researchers, examined two nuggets from two different national fast food chains in Jackson and published the findings in the American Journal of Medicine. They selected one nugget from each box, dissected the nuggets and looked under the microscope.

The first nugget was about half muscle, and the other half was fat, blood vessels and nerves, the researchers wrote in their study. In a closer inspection, researchers found cells that line the skin and internal organs of chickens.

The second nugget was only 40 percent of muscle, and the remainder was fat, cartilage and pieces of bone.

Bottom line, deShazo told Reuters Health, “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.”

The nuggets are okay to eat occasionally deShazo reassured, but because they are cheap, taste good and are accessible at many places, he worries children eat them often.

“Chicken nuggets are an excellent source of protein, especially for kids who might be picky eaters,” Ashley Peterson, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the National Chicken Council told Reuters.

While deShazo agrees that chicken meat is a primary source of protein, he says these nuggets are "only being passed off as chicken meat.”

But Peterson said two chicken nugget samples out of the many out there is way too small to generalize the findings to an entire category of food.

“I don’t think they’re demons or bad people,” deShazo said. “I think they’re trying to make money. I think they’re trying to give us what we want.”

Of course, consumers are not actually being lied to with these contents. By law, restaurants provide a list of ingredients and nutritional facts of all their foods, just at foods in grocery stores do. Whether people actually read the nutritional facts is another question.

“We are eating ourselves to death in Mississippi,” deShazo said. “We have the highest rates of obesity, heart attack and diabetes.”

Now that we know what’s in a chicken nugget, the next question is where did the bone, muscle tissue and bone filled nuggets from the study come from? The researchers opted to not reveal that answer.

Sources: Reuters, WFSB.com


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