What Are Chicken Nuggets Really Made Of?

The problem with chicken nuggets isn't the part of the animal that they're made from, which can include all sorts of internal organs, but the preservatives and other additives used by manufacturers.
chicken nuggets' ingredients

We’re all familiar with those little deep-fried nuggets that can be found at almost any fast food joint or even in your own freezer.  We see them everywhere – their crispy, golden goodness tempting us through all sorts of delicious looking ads.  But what are chicken nuggets actually made of?  We’ll explain in this article and then you can decide whether or not you want to keep eating them.

Their delicious and perfect golden brown image makes our mouths water every time we see them.  We’re often mistaken into believing that they’re a healthier choice for our children or the doctor may have told you to avoid red meat because of the cholesterol it contains.  So, you choose chicken nuggets never believing that they could raise triglyceride levels.  The next time you’re looking over the menu at a fast food restaurant or trying to decide what to pack for lunch or make for dinner, take a moment to think and make an informed decision first.

How do they make chicken nuggets?

Those tasty chicken nuggets that seem like a healthier alternative to a hamburger are actually made from a pink paste that resembles strawberry frozen yogurt or bubblegum.  It’s a pink paste made by grinding and mechanically separating whole chickens.  Michael Kindt recently revealed this on his blog, Early Onset of Night.


But it doesn’t stop there.  The pink mass that results from this process is loaded with bacteria.  What do they do to get rid of the bacteria?  They sterilize it with an ammonia bath, a simple and disgusting procedure.  If it ended there, we’d be assaulted by the smell of ammonia every time we cooked up some chicken nuggets.  To hide the taste and smell of the chemical disinfectant, they cover it up with artificial coloring and flavorings (when we think about it, those additives are in a lot of the food we eat every day).

The renowned chef, James Oliver, is responsible for raising awareness about the process behind chicken nuggets on his TV show, Food Revolution, broadcast by the ABC network.  He says he wanted to raise awareness so parents would stop giving this unhealthy food to their children.  However, he was unsuccessful in this regard.

Later, the NatGeo channel broadcast a show on foods produced using the “mechanical separation” technique, which explains the origins of chicken nuggets.


Huffington Post Investigates “Fake” Food

This Huffington Post article – known worldwide as “What’s Really in a Chicken Nugget?” – received international attention when it announced that nuggets don’t contain just chicken (which is the only thing they should contain) but guts, crushed bones, fat, veins, nerves, cartilage, and around 30 different chemical additives. They contain less than 50% chicken, the rest is filler.

The article starts with, “When you order fast food, you know you’re not making a healthy choice, but you at least expect it to be food.  Chicken is chicken and meat is meat, right?”

The media has conducted a number of studies on “fake” food.  When it comes to chicken nuggets, only about half their content is really chicken meat; the rest is made up of over 3 dozen additives and fillers, including aluminum sulfate.


The American Journal of Medicine compared the chicken nuggets from two leading fast food chains (they didn’t specify which, but we can reasonably assume which two they were).  Nuggets from both chains contained only 50% chicken meat at most, the rest was a mixture of cartilage, nerves, crushed bones, veins and fat.

According to Dr. Richard D. deShazo, from the University of Mississippi’s Medical Center, “companies have chosen to use an artificial mix of chicken parts instead of lean meat.  This is then battered, deep-fried and still somehow referred to as chicken.  It is a chicken-based product that contains a lot of calories, salt, sugar and fat.  It’s not healthy for any one.”

Dr. David Katz, from Yale University, states that this mixture can be harmful, although results from studies are not yet available.  Just informing people that chicken nuggets are made from nerves, veins and crushed bones is not enough to get them to stop eating the product; they also need to know that they contain chemical additives to alter the flavor and consistency.  The problem with chicken nuggets is not the parts of the animal used, but the preservatives and chemicals that are added during manufacture.


Returning to the Huffington Post article, they found the anti-foaming agent dimethylpolysiloxane in a piece of fried chicken; this substance is also found in antifreeze for cars.  Although these additives are not declared as harmful, they aren’t exactly good for you either.  Other fast food producers add MSG, related to headaches and excessive sweating.  In each case, they found high levels of dextrose, an added sugar.  Ten units contain 900 mg of sodium before frying, well above the recommended daily dose.