Monday, 23 January 2012

What Lay People Should Know about Chicken Nuggets – How It's Made

by Zad Datu

“Mmmm... Chicken nuggets!” could be your first thought when you are served it. But perhaps that would all change your mind after finding out more about how they’re made and out of what.

Let us start from the outside, then we’ll slowly move to what’s inside.

On the outside we’ve got the breadcrumbs, obviously. Once fried it gets crusty and golden, easy on the eyes and interesting to munch on. Prior to frying and without the breadcrumbs you just have a patty of lumpy chicken. But before being chopped up and shaped into patties, where were they? “In ammonia”, is the answer – washed in ammonia, the were.

Ammonia!? Washed!? Why washed? To clean it of course! “You mean it’s dirty?”, you ask? Apparently so!... It’s full of artificial colouring and artificial flavouring.

What’s with the artificial colouring? Because they looked like what is shown in the image below – all pink. That is what you may have been eating all these while, whenever you stuff chicken nuggets down your throat.

This is pink stuff what turns into the nuggets you probably eat.

Why the artificial flavouring!? Shouldn’t chicken taste like chicken already?... Not if they’re not chicken.

“Not chicken!?” Well, actually it is chicken – parts of chickens, at least. But not chicken flesh. They’re called mechanically separated/reclaimed/recovered meat/poultry. They’re basically what’s left of the chicken after the meat has all been removed – the carcase – plus chicken skin ground thoroughly to smoothness and pinkness.

One Episode from The Young Turks Network:

A Scene from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution:

So what about Chicken McNuggets? As mentioned in The Young Turks Network video above, and according to the McDonald’s USA Ingredients Listing for Popular Menu Items, Chicken McNuggets are real genuine chicken meat.
Chicken McNuggets®:

White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning [autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil,
dextrose, citric acid], sodium phosphates, natural flavor (botanical source). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced
iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, bleached wheat flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid
pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, dextrose, corn starch.

Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness).
Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

You could even tell that it is chicken meat in your Chicken McNuggets from how the inside it looks. Just take a look at the photo below... You could even tell that this particular part is breast meat, if my guess is correct. I would assume that real chicken nuggets are generally made of breast meat as most customers seem to prefer and ask for the tender parts of the chicken when ordering chicken pieces (i.e. drumstick and thigh), placing the breast meat to waste, so its just logical to use the less wanted meat as chicken nuggets to reduce waste and save cost. In fact that’s exactly what using the carcase of the chicken does – reduce waste and save cost.

Photo of the inside of Chicken McNuggets

Speaking of reducing waste and saving cost, common sense tends to dictate that this just may be how chicken nuggets were invented. That perhaps a restaurant owner want to find way to save cost by using up the whole chicken as food, including the bones, so out popped the idea. If you assume that this is how chicken nuggets were invented, you should also assume that the restaurant was McDonalds in its infancy.

I say this because the invention of chicken nuggets is often wrongly accredited to McDonalds.

I can’t find info on the ingredients of KFC Chicken Nuggets, but from the looks of it, it is most likely to be real chicken meat. I’m sure big American companies like these wouldn’t be able to get away with using mechanically separated poultry as chicken nuggets especially with the power of the consumer’s rights in the US.

Here in Malaysia we have this famous chicken product brand called Ayamas (ayam translates to chicken from Malay and -mas sounds like from the word emas which translates to gold; put it together it sounds like chicken’s ass), and I can say that the insides of their chicken nugget does not at all look like chicken meat as pictured above. Again, I don’t have the ingredient list for this, so I can only speculate. In this country, consumer’s rights isn’t as in-forced as we wish it to be, so I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the local chicken nugget products are made of chicken carcase and skin. The odd thing is, every time I eat Ayamas chicken nuggets, I seem to get a temporary mild headache.

So... Feeling happy about eating Chicken McNuggets after knowing that they’re made of genuine chicken meat?... Hold on! The site of which I got the above image is from an article titled Anti-foaming agent found in Chicken McNuggets. Don’t you just hate news which brings crucial awareness? Or rather, don’t you just hate truths?...

Note: I'm sure more information could be included in this article, but there's a lot more I have to research and learn about food and diet before writing anymore on the subject.
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