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What’s in a Chicken Nugget?

“I was floored,” the doctor said when he looked at the sample under a microscope. “I was astounded.”

The sample Dr. Richard deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center was examining was a chicken nugget from a fast food chain. He’d enlisted a colleague, pathologist Steven Bigler, because of his growing concerns about the way the typical American diet is hooking young people on foods that are dangerously bad for them.

“It’s almost like super glue that we’re eating.”

The two doctors had just dissected two chicken nuggets from two unnamed national fast-food chain restaurants near the medical center. (McDonalds has four within two miles.)

One of the nuggets was 50 percent fat, blood vessels and nerves; the other was 60 percent fat, blood vessels and ground-up cartilage and bits of bone.

Dr. diShazo hosts a wellness program on the local public radio station, explained more of the dangers of these nuggets:

“When chicken is processed, there’s some chicken left on the bone. You can actually vibrate that stuff off, and you get these chicken leftovers, and you can put it together, mix it up with other substances, and come out with a goo that you can fry and call a chicken nugget. It’s a combination of chicken, carbohydrates, and fats, and other substances that make it glue together. It’s almost like super glue that we’re eating. In some fast-food restaurants.”

The fast food chicken world is in a bit of a fluster over the study since they like to promote their nuggets as being a healthy low-fat choice. But the study, which is published in the American Journal of Medicine, concludes:

Chicken nuggets are mostly fat, and their name is a misnomer.

Here’s the doctors’ illustration of what they found in one of the nuggets:


“It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar and fat that is a very unhealthy choice,” Dr. diShazo said. “Even worse, it tastes great and kids love it and it is marketed to them.”

Needless to say, the National Chicken Council (NCC) pushed right back.

“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 NCC, told Reuters.

She added that the list of ingredients is clearly available to customers.

And so it is. The real issue isn’t how much by-product is in the nuggets; it’s how bad for you, in every way, it is to eat anything that comes out of a factory farm. All that fat that the doctors observed comes from the fact that the chickens are bred to grow as big and fat as possible, and as quickly as possible. And in the unhealthy, crowded conditions where they pass their short lives, they have to be loaded with antibiotics to stop them getting sick and dying before they get big and fat enough to be killed.

It’s a valuable study, nonetheless, and just more evidence that you should do yourself and your family a favor and stick to a plant-based diet. It’s better for you, and you don’t have to be part of an industry that causes so much suffering.