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What's Actually in Your Chicken Nuggets?

The breakdown of this fast food favorite's components will make you think twice before ordering the "healthier" menu option for you or your kids.

| October 7th, 2013
What's Actually in Your Chicken Nuggets?

Think you’re choosing the lesser of two evils by ordering the eight-piece, white-meat chicken nugget meal instead of a bacon cheeseburger? A small September 2013 study published in The American Journal of Medicine that reveals the mystery makeup of this Happy Meal staple might encourage you to rethink your strategy in the fast food line.

In hopes of gaining some insight into the factors contributing to the area’s obesity epidemic—more specifically, obesity in children—researchers in Jackson, Miss., randomly selected, dissected and examined chicken nuggets from two unnamed national fast food chains. They chose this menu item specifically for its popularity among kids. But according to their results, the name “chicken nugget” is quite inaccurate, since only half of its makeup is indeed chicken meat. So what else is stuffed inside that crispy breading?

MORE: What's Lurking in Your Fast Food?

The study showed that one of the nuggets was composed of approximately 50 percent skeletal muscle (what we think of as chicken meat) and 50 percent composed of fat, with some blood vessels and nerves and pieces of supportive tissue cells and skin cells. The other nugget was only made up of about 40 percent skeletal muscle, with the rest consisting of fat and other tissues, plus some pieces of bone. Have you lost your appetite yet? We figured.

Besides just sounding disgusting, this grab bag of ingredients suggests that the innocent “all white meat” nugget from fast food chains might actually be a poor source of protein and total fat and carbohydrate bomb disguised as a lean meat. Truth be told, you'll get blood vessels and other tissue in any chicken, whether you buy it from the farmer's market or a fast food joint. And how much actual meat do you really think is in a chicken wing? The takeaway here is: Don't be tricked into thinking chicken nuggets are somehow healthy. Like most highly processed foods, they unfortunately have little to offer in terms of quality nutrition, even though they might have our tastebuds fooled.

MORE: How to Spot Food Frauds

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