What’s really inside a chicken nugget?
Your favorite fast food “chicken” nugget may not contain as much chicken meat as you think, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Medicine.
Researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center randomly selected chicken nuggets from two major fast food chains for a laboratory analysis. They found that the nuggets contained only between 40 and 50 percent meat, with the remainder being fat, skin, connective tissue, blood vessels, nerves and bone fragments.
“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,” said study co-author Dr. Richard deShazo, in a news release. “It really is a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar and fat that is a very unhealthy choice.”
The National Chicken Council (NCC), a non-profit trade association representing the U.S. chicken industry, insists that chicken nuggets are a great source of protein and that the study’s sample size of two nuggets is too small to generalize an entire category of food.
“In making chicken nuggets, our members use quality ingredients and adhere to all food safety laws and regulations to create a product with high quality their customers and consumers expect,” said Ashley Peterson, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the NCC, in a statement.
The researchers acknowledged the small sample size and say the experiment wasn’t designed as a comprehensive study of nuggets from all major fast food chains, noting that some companies have begun to use primarily white meat in their chicken nuggets.
Whether a chicken nugget or garden salad, it’s important to be aware of what you’re putting into your body, says Mary Carroll, a registered dietitian at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill.
“Most restaurants and fast food chains make ingredient and nutrition information readily available,” said Carroll. “However, it’s ultimately up to the customer to take advantage of this information and use it to make healthier food choices.”
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About the Author
Kellee Lemcke, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing coordinator at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. A Michigan native, Kellee earned a degree in communication from Alma College, with a focus in mass media and technology.