What’s in Your Chicken Nuggets?

What’s Really in Your Chicken Patty/Nugget? 

The following statement from a Facebook posting is not entirely true:

Say hello to mechanically separated chicken. It’s what fast-food chicken is made – things like chicken nuggets and patties. In addition, the processed frozen chicken in the stores is made from it. Basically, the entire chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve — bones, eyes, guts, and all. It comes out looking like a pink python.

There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be re-flavored artificially. Finally, since it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color. You eat this every time you order chicken nuggets or a chicken patty sandwich.

The Truth:
*The entire chicken is not ground up to make the chicken paste as the bones are removed.

*The meat is not “soaked” in ammonia. Ammonia is no longer  approved food additive. (We’ll that’s a relief.)

Somehow this explanation doesn’t make me feel any better: According to the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service, “Mechanically separated meets are the real thing and are safe. Very simply, mechanical separation is a way of getting every last piece of meat from the bone of a chicken, turkey, or other food animal. Bones with edible meat attached are forced under high pressure through a device that separates the bone from the meat. It’s a process that’s been used since the 1960’s and for a variety of popular products.”

I guess we should just trust the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service. After all they’re looking out for the folks (or maybe not).  They say mechanically separated products are “safe, wholesome, nutritious, and useful in providing consumers with the wide variety of economical meat and poultry products.”

It’s a good thing any product containing mechanically separated chicken must be labeled as such in the ingredients statement. This ruling became effective November 4, 1996. Products which might contain mechanically separated chicken are hot dogs, sausage, fast food nuggets and chicken patties as well as frozen nuggets and chicken patties.

What About McDonalds?
Are the chicken nuggets the healthier choice on McDs menu? The Facebook posting singled out McDonalds as using mechanically separated chicken in their nuggets. McDonald’s previously used mechanically separated chicken. Today, they claim they use the white meat from chicken. Do you feel better? Do you still believe the nuggets and chicken patties are the healthier choice at McDs? If you do, then read this from The Omnivore’s Dilemma:

“Of the thirty-eight ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, I counted thirteen that can be derived from corn: the corn-fed chicken itself; modified cornstarch (to bind the pulverized chicken meat); mono-, tri-, and diglycerides (emulsifiers, which keep the fats and water from separating); dextrose; lecithin (another emulsifier); chicken broth (to restore some of the flavor that processing leeches out); yellow corn flour and more modified cornstarch (for the batter); cornstarch (a filler); vegetable shortening; partially hydrogenated corn oil; and citric acid as a preservative. A couple of other plants take part in the nugget: There’s some wheat in the batter, and on any given day the hydrogenated oil could come from soybeans, canola, or cotton rather than corn, depending on the market price and availability.

According to the handout, McNuggets also contain several completely synthetic ingredients, quasi-edible substances that ultimately come not from a corn or soybean field but form a petroleum refinery or chemical plant. These chemicals are what make modern processed food possible, by keeping the organic materials in them from going bad or looking strange after months in the freezer or on the road. Listed first are the “leavening agents”: sodium aluminum phosphate, mono-calcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and calcium lactate. These are antioxidants added to keep the various animal and vegetable fats involved in a nugget from turning rancid. Then there are “anti-foaming agents” like dimethylpolysiloxene, added to the cooking oil to keep the starches from binding to air molecules, so as to produce foam during the fry. The problem is evidently grave enough to warrant adding a toxic chemical to the food: According to the Handbook of Food Additives, dimethylpolysiloxene is a suspected carcinogen and an established mutagen, tumorigen, and reproductive effector; it’s also flammable.

But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to “help preserve freshness.” According to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse.” Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill.”

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine, or the slowest form of poison.” — Dr. Ann Wigmore, ND
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