How are chicken nuggets made and what are they made of? - GenV (2024)

Estimated reading time: 6½ minutes

Chicken nuggets have become a popular choice worldwide as the hand-held fast food trend grows. But what do we actually know about how they are made and what impact they have on our health, the environment and animals?

What are chicken nuggets made of?

The meat in the nuggets comes, unsurprisingly, from chickens. It can be pieces of minced meat, but often it is 'mechanically recovered meat' or MRM. These are the leftover pieces of meat that are blown off the bone after the carcass has been slaughtered.

How are chicken nuggets made?

The reason chicken nuggets are so cheap is because they are factory-used, and the reason they are so tasty is because they taste nothing like chicken meat. Let's take a look at the entire process, from living creatures to heavily marketed 'nuggets'.

Take a chicken from an overcrowded prison

Nearly all chickens in the US, Europe and elsewhere are confined to industrial farms where they are kept alive, but none of their other needs are met. Because tens of thousands of birds are kept together in each stable, and there may be a dozen or more stables on each farm, their lives are cheap. The birds receive no individual care and attention, and millions die there in the barns, unable to survive six weeks in the harsh conditions. Six weeks? Yes, these birds have been genetically engineered to gain weight quickly, which causes their bodies to swell (and their hearts to fail and their limbs to break), but despite their size, they are still just babies when they are killed.

How are chicken nuggets made and what are they made of? - GenV (1)

Give her food with low nutritional value and antibiotics

The profit margin per bird is so small that all costs are carefully managed. The bird's food only needs to cause their weight to increase dramatically, it doesn't need to keep them healthy. And so their feed consists of cheap ingredients, including significant amounts of soy, much of which is growndeforested areasand shipped worldwide. And because of these conditions – immunocompromised birds crammed into a filthy environment, often without fresh air and nothing to exercise the body or mind – the birds are routinely given antibiotics in an attempt to keep as much alive as possible during the six short weeks. The widespread use of antibiotics in farm animals helps with drivingantibiotic-resistant pathogensin people. According to figures, drug-resistant bacteria sicken 2.8 million Americans every year and kill about 35,000 people.Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Discard sick and dead chickens

It is not surprising that many birds succumb to these conditions. Their bodies are simply thrown into the death bins or left to rot where they lie. Even birds that are sick but still alive are thrown into the trash and left to suffocate under the weight of their dead companions. It really is a heartless industry.

Kill the chickens

At the end of the six-week cycle, the barns are emptied. The birds are packed into boxes, either physically by capturing gangs that move quickly and grab birds by the legs and wings, or mechanically, with the animals swept up by machines. The birds are tightly packed in a box and often already have broken legs and wings. They are loaded onto trucks and transported long distances through all kinds of weather conditions – sweltering heat, driving rain and unbearable cold – to get to the slaughterhouse. There they can be chained upside down while still conscious and have their throats slit. Attempted stunning does not work for all birds. Some slaughterhouses gas the birds in specially built chambers.

How are chicken nuggets made and what are they made of? - GenV (2)

Pluck the chickens into boiling water

Once softened, the birds' bodies are plunged into hot water baths to loosen their feathers, and then they go to the slaughter line.

Boning and grinding

The meat is cut, stripped and blown off the bones. All parts that can be utilized are cut out, including the legs, and then the meat intended for nuggets is ground.

Season the meat to mask the taste

The meat itself does not taste good. To make it tasty, you have to taste it, and it is the spices used that make nuggets so tasty. The good news is that all of these spices come from plants, so it's easy to make vegan chicken nuggets that have all the flavor and texture and no suffering or environmental impact.

Shaping and frying

The meat filling is cut into sweet shapes to make them manageable and easy to eat, and then they are fried. We tend to crave these types of fatty foods—a throwback to our evolutionary history when finding high-calorie foods was beneficial—but today they have significant health consequences.

The truth about chicken nuggets

There are some pretty unpleasant truths about chicken nuggets.

The pink slime

According toUSDAMachine-extracted meat, also called machine-separated meat, is "a paste and dough-like meat product made by forcing bones, with edible meat attached to them, through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate the bone from the edible meat tissue." This looks like, and has come to be known as, pink slime. And it is this mucus that is formed and coated and sold to us as food.


Research shows that almost all animal products – including chicken – areeven worse for the planetthan almost all plant products. For example, chicken meat producesthree times as muchclimate-changing emissions than tofu, and it is inextricably linked to deforestation, as much of the feed sent to factory farms around the worldsoy grown on cleared land. When trees are cut down, wildlife is lost. Chicken farms are also knownwater and air pollutants, and this also has a very negative impact on nature. Overall, chicken farms are really bad news for the planet.

Are chicken nuggets bad for you?

They are definitely not healthy foods! In 2015, DeWorld Health Organisationconfirmed that all processed meat – such as chicken nuggets – causes colon cancer and that there is also a link with stomach cancer. Furthermore, there is strong evidence of a link between higher consumption of fried foods and chronic diseases, including:type 2 diabetes,high bloodpressure, Inheart failure.

And let's not forget itbacteriaassociated with handling and eating chicken – things like salmonella, campylobacter and E.coli. These are responsible for making millions of people sick every year.

There is also a broader health risk. If we think chicken farms are associated with seriouspandemic riskand also contribute to itantibiotic-resistant pathogensGradually we can see how dangerous the chicken farming industry is.

Animal abuse

Most people hate factory farming and know that the animals confined in such facilities live miserable lives. And yet we are so disconnected from our food systems that we may not realize that almost every piece of chicken consumed in the US, Europe and elsewhere comes from the very system we hate.

Tens of thousands of birds are packed into each unit. There is no enrichment, nothing to occupy their bright, curious minds. The birds are given nothing but food and are only allowed to live for six weeks. Because they are designed to gain weight quickly, their hearts and bones are put under enormous strain. Too often, hearts collapse and bones break under the pressure. Imagine being on broken legs all your life, without pain relief, without any care. It is a brutal industry that causes enormous suffering.

How are chicken nuggets made and what are they made of? - GenV (3)


When we weigh the pros and cons of chicken nuggets, we are balancing taste against animal suffering, environmental degradation, and personal and public health. So what if we could avoid all the bad stuff and still get the taste we love? We can. There are many companies producing super tasty vegan fried chicken*n that look, cook and taste like chicken, but don't have many negatives.

There's a phrase we love and feel inspired by: "be the change you want to see in the world." If we don't want to live in a world where animals are subjected to factory farming and slaughter, where one ruthless industry pollutes and poisons our planet and poses serious risks to public health, we can do something: we can simply stop supporting it .

How are chicken nuggets made and what are they made of? - GenV (4)

Do you want to know more?We encourage you to readFast food nationvan Eric Schlosser

How are chicken nuggets made and what are they made of? - GenV (2024)


How are chicken nuggets made and what are they made of? - GenV? ›

The chickens are then dumped into huge bins and wheeled to a grinder. There, the meat is ground down to shreds and combined with chicken skin. A beige paste is used as a binding agent. The meat paste is then dipped into tempura batter and fried, giving it the traditional chicken nugget look.

What are chicken nuggets actually made of? ›

Chicken nuggets are made with white meat from the breast or pectoral muscles of the birds, with other chicken parts mixed in. Tendons, bones, nervous and connective tissues, and fat can all be ground up together before being shaped into those bite-sized pieces.

How chicken nuggets are made gross? ›

Many fast-food chains use a mixture of flour, sugar, salt, and other additives in their breading. Some even add ingredients like dimethyl polysiloxane, a type of silicone used in cosmetic products, to prevent the oil from foaming during frying.

Why are chicken nuggets unhealthy? ›

Eating McDonald's chicken nuggets or burgers regularly can have adverse effects on one's health for several reasons: High in Calories, Fat, and Sugar: McDonald's products tend to be high in calories, unhealthy fats, and added sugars. Regular consumption can contribute to weight gain and obesity.

What are the raw materials in chicken nuggets? ›

The primary ingredients are chicken meat, binders like flour and starches, seasonings and preservatives. Chicken nuggets are generally considered unhealthy due to their fat and preservative content, but a good source of lean protein.

Is McDonald's chicken nuggets real or fake? ›

McDonald's Chicken McNuggets® are made with all white meat chicken and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The chicken, which is cut from the tenderloin, breast and rib, gets mixed with a marinade for flavor and to help the Chicken McNuggets® keep their fun shapes.

Are chicken nuggets real meat or scrap meat or fake? ›

McDonald's McNuggets are made with real chicken meat, but they also contain some other ingredients and additives that are used to enhance flavor and texture, and to preserve the quality of the meat.

Are Tyson chicken nuggets made with real chicken? ›

Made with all white meat chicken and simply seasoned with a crisp, golden breading, these nuggets are delicious no matter what you dip them in.

Are McNuggets processed meat? ›

Fast Food Chicken Nuggets

They're easy to pop in your mouth, but they're processed. There's chicken meat in them, along with bones, blood vessels, nerves, connective tissue, fat, and skin (although Chick-fil-A says its nuggets are made of boneless chicken breast) .

Are chicken nuggets healthy? ›

Besides offering little nutritional value, there contain an overwhelmingly high amount of preservatives. If chicken nuggets are a favorite in your house, opt to make your own – baked, fried or even broiled – at least you'll have full control over the ingredients you're serving.

Are Wendy's nuggets real? ›

"Whether you like your nuggets classic or spicy, paired with one of our savory dipping sauces or perfectly plain, Wendy's Chicken Nuggets deliver with 100% white-meat chicken breaded to crispy perfection.

Is Chick-Fil-A healthier than McDonald's? ›

Is Chick-Fil-A healthier than McDonald's? Since “healthy” is a subjective term, picking the healthiest option can be tough. But, in general, since Chick-Fil-A focuses on chicken, which is lower in calories, fat, and cholesterol than beef, we'll give the “healthier” title to Chick-Fil-A over McDonald's.

What is Mcdonald's chicken made of? ›

We start with all white-meat chicken cut from the tenderloin, breast and rib and mix it with a marinade for flavor and juiciness and to help them keep their fun shape. Once everything is mixed, we create the four famous Chicken McNuggets® shapes—bell, boot, ball and bone.

What are cheap chicken nuggets made of? ›

The meat is ground, then forced under high pressure through screens that reduce the meat, bones, and other parts into a paste. This paste is mixed with chicken skin and additives, including starch and sodium phosphate, and then shaped into nuggets.

How are Tyson chicken nuggets made? ›

The exact recipe and specific ingredients may be proprietary to Tyson Foods, but typical components include chicken breast meat, water, breading (usually made from wheat flour and various seasonings), and other additives for texture and flavor enhancement.

Is chicken nuggets made from real chicken? ›

The meat is ground, then forced under high pressure through screens that reduce the meat, bones, and other parts into a paste. This paste is mixed with chicken skin and additives, including starch and sodium phosphate, and then shaped into nuggets.

Are McNuggets 100% chicken? ›

The chicken in our McNuggets® is 100% chicken breast – chopped into small pieces in order to make it easier to shape and eat. In our restaurants, each Chicken McNugget® is cooked by our teams until perfectly crisp and then served nice and hot. Just the way a Chicken McNugget® should be eaten.

Is Tyson chicken nuggets real meat? ›

The full list of ingredients includes chicken breast with rib meat, water, whole wheat flour, wheat flour and contains 2% or less of the following: chicken broth, corn starch, dried garlic, dried onion, dried yeast, extractives of paprika, natural flavorings, salt, soybean oil, spice, sugar, yellow corn flour.

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