What’s Really In Fast Food Chicken Nuggets? Hint: Yuck!

chicken nugget

Doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Center set out to determine the nutritional content of fast food chicken nuggets. I’m not sure you want to know what they discovered.

Earlier this month Doctors Richard D. deShazo, MD and Steven Bigler, MD from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, MS published a truly disturbing study: The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads “Chicken Little.” 

Are Fast Food Chicken Nuggets Even Food?

What lead them to wonder what’s actually in a fast food chicken nugget (as so many of us have?):

Chicken nuggets have become a major component of the American diet. We sought to determine the current composition of this highly processed food.

So with this in mind the team randomly selected nuggets from two different national fast food chains. They fixed the nuggets in formalin (a solution of formaldehyde in water, used to preserve biological specimens), sectioned them and stained them for microscopic analysis. What did they find?

The Nasty Results

They found that, as so many of us have suspected, that most of the “chicken” is not actually chicken meat. What is it? Mostly fat, connective tissue and other very unappetizing stuff:

Striated muscle (chicken meat) was not the predominate component in either nugget. Fat was present in equal or greater quantities along with epithelium (animal tissue covering the external and internal surfaces of the body), bone, nerve, and connective tissue.

Their conclusion:

Chicken nuggets are mostly fat, and their name is a misnomer.

Chicken Nuggets photo via Shutterstock

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About the Author

is a former marketing consultant who decided, at the age of fifty, to turn her hand to creative non-fiction. Jennifer continues to write about sustainable food and wine, the intersection of food and marketing and food politics for EatDrinkBetter.com and is the author of Greening Your Small Business (November 2009, Penguin Group (USA)). She was named one of The 16 Women You Must Follow on Twitter for Green Business. She has four kids, a dog, a hamster and an MBA – follow her on and .