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What is Actually in Chicken Nuggets?

In a scathing expose of the USDA’s new meat inspection program, the Washington Post quoted a representative from the meat inspectors union, who said that “pig processing lines may be moving too quickly to catch tainted meat… Tremendous amounts of fecal matter remain on the carcasses. Not small bits, but chunks.” What about the other white meat?

In the above video, you can see an infographic the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine created to highlight what they consider to be the five worst contaminants in chicken products. In their investigation of retail chicken products in ten U.S. cities, they found fecal contamination in about half the chicken they bought at the store. But with all the focus on what’s in chicken products, we may have lost sight on what may be missing—such as actual chicken.

Researchers from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the Baptist Medical Center recently published an “autopsy” of chicken nuggets in the American Journal of Medicine. The purpose was to determine the contents of chicken nuggets from two national food chains. Because chicken nuggets are popular among children, the researchers thought that parents should know more about what they’re feeding to their kids.

The nugget from the first restaurant was composed of approximately 50% skeletal muscle, with the remainder composed primarily of fat, blood vessels and nerves, and generous quantities of skin or gut lining and associated supportive tissue. The nugget from the second restaurant was composed of approximately 40% skeletal muscle with lots of other tissues, including bone.

“I was floored,” said the lead investigator. “I had read what other reports have said is in them and I didn’t believe it. I was astonished actually seeing it under the microscope.” I profile some of those other pathology reports in my videos Whats in a Burger? and What Is Really in Hot Dogs?

The researchers concluded that since actual chicken meat was not the predominant component of either nugget, the term “chicken” nugget was really a misnomer.

If we’re going to eat something chicken-ish that isn’t chicken meat, why not truly boneless chicken: Chicken vs. Veggie Chicken.

More on fecal contamination of chicken in Fecal Bacteria Survey, of fish in Fecal Contamination of Sushi, and of pork in Yersinia in Pork. How can that be legal? See Salmonella in Chicken & Turkey: Deadly But Not Illegal.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death and More Than an Apple a Day.

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Read more: Health, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, General Health, Men's Health, Natural Remedies, Obesity, Videos, Women's Health, , ,

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at


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6:20AM PDT on Jun 25, 2015

thanks for sharing :)

1:02PM PDT on Sep 1, 2014

Good thing video had "sub" dialogue. The narrator needs to learn to enunciate.

9:23PM PDT on May 29, 2014

gross thanks for info

4:06AM PDT on May 29, 2014

I know it's not chicken, that's for sure..

10:09AM PDT on May 27, 2014

So sharing

2:05AM PDT on May 25, 2014

thanks for sharing

11:07PM PDT on May 22, 2014

How disgusting!

11:07PM PDT on May 22, 2014

The more processed of anything, the less healthy it is. Hotdogs, bologna, and any kind of "shaped" meat product is seriously, not only unhealthy, but actually injurious to your body.

The goal of any corporation is profit. Not food for healthy living. Soybean oil(GMO-95% of all soy oil in the U.S.) is a lot cheaper than butter in baked goods and crackers and anything baked.

If it says 0 transfats per serving, read the ingredient label.

If there is anything that says "partially hydrogenated" anything, it has trans fats and the serving size will be minuscule just to make the claim of 0 transfats per serving.

Remember, 0 trans fats really means less than or equal to .5 grams of trans fats.

Most people eat more than the stated "serving size" of just about anything processed.

Always read the ingredient label. It is only one of 2 things that are legally required for the product. And "chicken" can be also defined as any part of the bird-nerves, bones, tendons, what ever. Same for the "beef" on hotdogs. Those all beef hotdogs are literally ALL parts of the beef.

4:30AM PDT on May 22, 2014

Eat smart

7:17PM PDT on May 21, 2014

yuck! glad I haven't touched them for years!

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