What's wrong with chicken nuggets?
October 4, 2013 12:21 PM   Subscribe

The top news this morning on my Google news health section were exposé s along the lines of Just what is in that chicken nugget? - the scandal being that they are made of an "artificial mixture of chicken parts" rather than all white meat chicken. Nuggets included fat, skin, cartilage, organ parts, tendons, and blood vessels. And where I'm confused is: isn't it more environmentally correct, more "my people use all parts of the animal," possibly even healthier, to use the whole chicken?

I have the same question about sausages.
posted by kanewai to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When we think of people who are hunting and "using all parts of the animal," they're not eating all parts of the animal.

If it were healthier to eat cartilage, tendons, blood vessels, etc, we would see a clear-cut defense of that practice on those grounds.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:25 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

First, it's a crap deal to be paying for supposed white meat, and second, all that crap is concentrated antibiotics and the shit they feed, as well as harboring salmonella like crazy.

Commercial chicken butchering is disgusting.

Not sure what the calorie count difference is, but I'm sure with the skins, it's much higher than white meat.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:27 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Healthier? No. Willy-nilly grinding up of carcasses spreads contagion when they hit a gut or skin or cyst, and many parts are mostly fat, which is not healthy to eat.

What it is, is cheaper. And yes, throwing less away means less byproduct to be disposed of, so perhaps environmentally sounder. The objection is that it's aesthetically disgusting, which is a subjective value.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:28 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, but at least in America people only want to eat what are considered (by those same people) to be the best parts of an animal.

And really the whole "What part of the chicken are these made from? Somebody tell me, because I'd like to know!" is just stand-up comedian banter when what they really mean is "these things in no way resemble chicken because of all the added filler crap in them."

There is nothing wrong with a chicken nugget. You can cut a chunk off a nice, healthy free-range chicken, bread it in your grandma's secret coating, fry it in oil, and you have a chicken nugget. Chicken McNuggets, on the other hand...
posted by bondcliff at 12:29 PM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

The issue is that these things are sold as "chicken" with the impression that they're made of meat and not chicken parts.

Environmental correctness is beside the point.
posted by cnc at 12:29 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it bothers you, you can get 100% breast meat chicken nuggets.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:33 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, pink slime looks disgusting.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:35 PM on October 4, 2013

Here is WebMD to answer your question.
posted by bearwife at 12:39 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

pink slime is a beef product, not chicken.
posted by nadawi at 12:39 PM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

And since you asked about sausage -- that's pretty awful from a salt and fat perspective too. Never mind how the animals are raised and killed who get into the sausage, the genetic engineering that is included in processing, and the particular animal parts at issue.
posted by bearwife at 12:48 PM on October 4, 2013

When we think of people who are hunting and "using all parts of the animal," they're not eating all parts of the animal.

Says who? Fat, organs, cartilage, etc are all regularly consumed by people all over the world. In fact some cultures, some in the West even, have specific beliefs regarding the health benefits of consuming said "parts" that are poo-pooed by others.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:49 PM on October 4, 2013 [21 favorites]

We're trained to believe that muscle meat is delicious and organ meat is disgusting, which isn't necessarily true -- liver and heart are highly nutritious for example. But chicken nuggets aren't made of liver and heart: the fat, skin, tendons, cartilage and bone they are made of are less nutritious than muscle meat. (Couldn't find links for nutritional information for tendons, cartilage, or bone, oddly enough.)

But even if they were the nutritionfullest things that were ever nutritional, most people's reactions to this would still largely based on a visceral disgust at the idea that they're eating, uh, viscera.

The environmental side of the question is complicated; I'm not sure how to quantify whether it's better for the environment to throw away unused poor-quality meats, or to give people heart disease and obesity and etc by feeding them poor-quality meats.
posted by ook at 12:57 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

I find this hilarious because I regularly buy roast chicken and eat every bit of it and use the carcass to make stock. Like your grandmother used to do back in the good old days.

The objection to pink slime is simply aesthetics. It is not much different from ground beef other that the grain being so much finer and that it is separated from the cow carcass using a chemical process rather than a physical one. Heston B would probably charge you 299 bucks for his version and call it molecular.

If people where consistent about avoiding food that had any contact with ammonia they pretty much couldn't eat anything that came out of a food processing plant since it is a pretty standard ingredient in cleaners.

It is highly unlikely that viscera is making it into chicken nuggets by the way. The gut is pretty much off limits to food producers except under very specific conditions.
posted by srboisvert at 1:02 PM on October 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

As for the environmental impact, the problem isn't throwing away part of the animal, I think -- as far as I know disposal of animal parts is an environmental non-issue. The environmental impact comes from the way these animals are raised.
posted by bearwife at 1:05 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is highly unlikely that viscera is making it into chicken nuggets by the way

The article does mention "cells that line the skin and internal organs of the bird", but yeah, mostly that was just me failing to resist the urge to pun.

posted by ook at 1:10 PM on October 4, 2013

Here's the truth: pretty much nothing in the chicken nuggets that comes from (or could come from) free-range, chemical-free chickens is unhealthy in and of itself. Proportion is always the problem: a cough drop is not unhealthy, but 2 pounds of hard candy for dinner is a badi idea. Fried foods aren't first-rate for the nutrition/weight metric, and have a lot of problematic issues (cholesterol & polysacchirides)... but that's true of your mom's homemade pork chops, too..

Now, what you should worry about in your nuggets are things that aren't made by the chicken's body: antibiotics, pesticide residue from feed, mystery fillers, etc. Some of these things may be essentially harmless in the levels we're exposed to, but it's worth investigating. AFAIK the solid science is hard to separate from the "Our Side Is Right! Listen To Us Or Die Horribly!" politicking.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:17 PM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

[Folks, constructive answers not debates, please. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:18 PM on October 4, 2013

I am not bothered by using all parts of a single chicken. I agree that using as many parts of the animal is a good thing.
I am bothered by a "nugget" made of a thousand chickens put into a giant vat and ground up into an indistinguishable paste to be made into nuggets. This way, one diseased chicken gets its infections into tons of nuggets. And the chickens bound for a nuggetty end have been raised in such terrible factory conditions that they are more likely to be diseased anyway (and to have had a horrible life .)
So yes, good to eat all parts of a chicken, but not so much all the combined parts of a hundred.
posted by third rail at 2:16 PM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I can't speak for that study, but as I understand it, McDonalds chicken nuggets are not just chicken with a coating, the actual chicken part in the middle also contains a bunch of other stuff. I think I heard something on NPR a number of years ago saying that there is a ton of corn products in there.
posted by markblasco at 5:58 PM on October 4, 2013

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