Chicken Nuggets: Is That How They're Made? A GOOD Fact Check
A lot of people have checked out our post on how chicken nuggets are made, which shows a disgusting image of a pink material and an even grosser video and offers this set of facts:
Mechanically separated chicken—the stuff chicken nuggets and patties are made from—is what you get when you grind an entire chicken through a sieve, soak it in ammonia, and add flavor artificially.
With some prompting from Jason Kottke, we've done some investigating, and it turns out that the post was only partly true and certainly blown out of proportion (and no one is really sure what that photo is of).
According to Snopes, which I regard as the preeminent internet-craziness fact debunking site and (problematically, most likely) consider infallible, here is what is true and not true about mechanically separated chicken:
1. "It's what you get when you grind an entire chicken through a sieve"
Close, but not quite. When a machine processes a whole chicken, there is quite a bit of meat left on the bones. To avoid wasting that meat—and money—the bones are run through a sieve-like device, but only to remove meat and other edible tissue (like tendon) from them. So, yes, there is a sieve, but the end result consists only of meat, not ground up bones or eyeballs.
2. "Soak it in ammonia"
Ammonia has sometimes leaked onto food from cooling systems, causing contamination, but it is not something that food processors can legally add to foods. Lord knows what people are actually doing in their chicken processing plants, but this is not an accepted part of the practice.
3. "Add flavor artificially."
This part is totally true. These little processed chicken scraps may not have the delicious chicken flavor you were hoping for, so processors add flavoring.
4. "The stuff chicken nuggets and patties are made from"
This is also totally true. Also add hot dogs to that list. However, a product must list "mechanically separated chicken" as an ingredient. For the record, McDonald's Chicken Nuggets are all white meat, and not made from MSC.
So, the truth is pretty gross. But not quite as gross as the internet rumor. Below can see a great video (which we've linked to before) of Jamie Oliver showing kids exactly how chicken nuggets are made, and then watching in horror as they gobble up the results:
Why Oysters are Shacking up in Old Subway Cars States scrap over metal in a race to boast the greenest reef.
A Cable Car Revolution in the World’s Highest City The future of Bolivia’s public transportation takes to the skies.
When Humans Fight, but Animals Win Penguins have resorted to using landmines to keep pesky humans away.
So You Think You’re a Foodie? Pop culture was onto these trends way before you were. A sampling of the screwball comedies, sob stories, and sci-fis that anticipated our culinary moment
Dear Nine-Year-Old Me The transition is going to be difficult for you, but whenever you feel a little lonely and left out, take comfort in the knowledge that you are honing one of your greatest superpowers.
What to Do When Your Country is Drowning The wild and desperate ways island nations are fighting the effects of climate change
The Rise of Drone Pizza Delivery Why the skies will soon be filled with flying, snack-bearing robots
How Helsinki Became a Public Transporation Paradise One European city plans to make car ownership obsolete within a decade.
Follow the Crowd NanoCrafter and the rise of group intelligence Why online gaming may just be the future of science
The Empathy Mirror Neurofeedback enables us to better see ourselves in the other. Recent discoveries in neurofeedback can teach you to be less of a dick.
Robots On Ice Probe the Arctic Why a team of research robots is investigating disappearing sea ice, and why you should care
Don’t Turn Away Colin Finlay photographs the consequences of climate change. You will never see more beautiful photos of the deteriorating state of our planet than the ones in this photo feature.