Do Chicken 'Nuggets' Contain Chicken?
By Kirsty Needham
Sydney Morning Herald
Warm, bite-sized and sort-of white, they are the favored
fast food of millions of children who believe they are eating chicken.
Twenty-five years after the first boneless, reconstituted
chunk was sold to McDonald's by a supplier, the chicken nugget leads sales of "value-added" poultry products.
It is a "McFrankenstein creation", according to the New York
judge who, in a court case involving McDonald's last year, identified a long list of nugget ingredients, including "anti-foaming
A large Australian chicken processor describes a nugget
as a mouthful of batter, water, soybean (sometimes passing as chicken), skin, fat and - entirely dependent on how much you've
paid - chicken meat particles.
In 2002, the Australian Consumers Association tested 14
popular nugget brands. The study found chicken filling often made up less than half of each nugget. Fat per average serve
was as high as 31 grams. And none contained real chicken chunks, but "manufactured" or "formed" chicken.
The consumer group wants tougher labeling. "The labels
won't say if 57 per cent chicken is a nice piece of chicken breast or skin and off-cuts," says its food policy officer, Clare
Philip Tana, manager of operations and part-owner of Red
Rooster, does not like the term "manufactured" chicken. "We prefer 'further-processed' chicken. The chicken is still grown
and they then harvest the meat."
Red Rooster nuggets are 56 per cent "formed" chicken,
but Tana says the ingredients are "not different to what any housewife or chef would use.
"If we took them off the menu there would be an outcry."
Perth-based Canon Foods processes 80 million nuggets each
year. Chief executive Richard Pace says chicken is ground to five-millimeter particles, then skin and soybean added with water
to make an emulsion.
Canon's nuggets vary depending on the client, with the
more expensive one containing white meat. An average nugget contains one-third batter, up to 10 per cent water, and skin.
"Depending on the price, water can be a replacement for
chicken to make the nugget cheaper," Pace says. Soybean is also often used as a chicken substitute, but not by Canon, he says.
Steggles recently changed its nugget recipe to lower the
fat and salt level and whiten the meat.
would not comment on whether the recipe used here was the same as that in the US,
described by the New York judge as having "twice the fat
of a hamburger."
A spokeswoman said local nuggets were "65 per cent chicken."