What Sauce Would You Like With Those Nuggets? Regular or Elongated?


So when The Publicist chided me (gently) the other day about blogging, the topic he mentioned specifically (because he suggested topics, presumably in hopes of inspiring me to get off my ass and get busy) was this chicken nuggets thing. Why didn’t I blog about that?

My immediate reaction was:


But I’m a cooperative soul. So. Chicken nuggets. (*1)


Chicken nuggets, outraged Americans learned recently, do not contain one hundred percent chicken “meat.” 

Researchers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center bought a couple of orders of chicken nuggets at two unidentified fast food joints (identifying the source of the nuggets, one research explained, would “generate negative publicity off topic”) and submitted one nugget from each order to the microscope. (*2) 

They found that one nugget contained 40 percent “meat” and the other 50 percent “meat.” The rest of the ingredients included “generous quantities of fat and other tissue, including connective tissue and bone spicules.” (*3) 

Media outlets spread the dire news far and wide. A report from NPR said:

Chicken nuggets: Call 'em tasty, call 'em crunchy, call 'em quick and convenient. But maybe you shouldn't call them "chicken." (*4)


One of the researchers told NPR:

"The predominate component is not healthy, lean chicken meat, a great source of healthy protein, but an adulterated chicken product containing 50 percent or less chicken meat, with other chicken components, in a suspension of unknown carrier material." 


The lead researcher told Reuters that 

"We all know white chicken meat to be one of the best sources of lean protein available and encourage our patients to eat it. . . . What has happened is that some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it and still call it chicken.” (*5)




Gimme a fucking break. Look at the words, people: “an artificial mixture of chicken parts.”  “An adulterated chicken product.” 

Huh? How can a mixture of chicken parts be artificial? It’s . . . chicken. And what’s “adulterated” about ground chicken parts? It’s . . . chicken.

But never mind. I’m told, on good authority, that I’m too focused on the words people use in reporting this, that, and the other. So never mind all that.

(Although I add this: If there’s actually someone out there who believes that a chicken nugget is or ever was 100 percent “chicken white meat,” well --- it’s entirely possible that they’re too stupid to live.

Have you ever looked at a chicken? There ain’t that much “white meat” on a single bird. Even if you add in all the dark meat, there’s not that much meat on a bird. Does anyone believe that a nugget maker is gonna use the “best” meat for a nugget? Do you know what the price of a nugget, Mc or otherwise, would be if food companies made them from one hundred percent white meat?

People, a chicken nugget is nothing more than a battered- and deep-fried piece of chicken sausage. Sausage. You know? That delectable item that people make with all the leftover and otherwise-might-go-to-waste bits? 

But again: enough of that.) 


So rather than say all that, here's what I prefer to say about the latest nuggets debacle: It is, to my jaded (and grumpy) historian’s mind, blather. (*6) Been there, done that. 

To wit:

“Advertisements for McDonald's Chicken McNuggets were called "false and misleading" in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission last week by a Washington-based consumer group. The petition was authored by Center for Science in the Public Interest and states that slogans used by the fast-food chain to promote its fried chicken bits are inaccurate.
In particular, the group alleges that the TV commercials which claim McNuggets are made from "whole breasts and thighs," are false because the product also contains chicken skin and is fried in a beef fat-based shortening.”

Source: Daniel P. Puzo, Chicken McNuggets Ads Misleading, Complaint Says,” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1985

Thus: yawn.

So rather than dissect (or microscope) this recent take on the nugget (and likely, once again, be taken for an advocate for one “side” or the other), here, friends, is what I, cranky historian Ogle, prefer to say about this recent chicken nuggets thingie: *(7)

WTF? How hard would it be for a reporter doing a story about this to search back through, say, 30 or 35 years of news to learn how people framed the same discussion in the past?

That angle might intrigue the audience: “By the way, this isn’t a first-time ever situation, here’s what people had to say about this in 1985, and isn’t that interesting?" (*8) Bare minimum, that information would hint that we humans don’t change much over time and so maybe it’s time to re-think/re-frame the complaint. 

Oh, wait! What’s that? You didn’t realize this chicken nuggets thing has been around awhile? That it’s another exercise in reinventing the wheel? 

But  --- now you do know that. And doesn't that alter your perspective on the situation just a little . . . tiny . . . bit?

In my experience as a historian, the Long View of the Big Picture enriches the thought process, the creative process, and the end results of one's thinking. Bare minimum, an elongated perspective, such as that of the historian, offers writers and readers alike a delightful side trek off the main reactive rut. 

That’s what I really wanted to say about chicken nuggets.

(And, yeah, okay, I’ve got an “agenda”: Including a historical view in reportage might --- maybe! --- fuel enthusiasm for history in general. A historian can hope.)


*1: Full disclosure: Here's the tale of my sole encounter with a Chicken McNugget: A couple of years ago I visited friends in Tampa. The dad was going out to run an errand and the daughter said "Oh, dad! Bring me back some nuggets! Puh-leeze."

So dad dutifully zipped through the McD's drive-through and came back with an order of nuggets. He asked if I wanted one and I declined. I added that I'd never tasted one and thanks but no thanks.

"You've never tasted a McNugget," father and daughter gasped in unison (more or less). "No," I said.

(For the record, the only foods I've eaten at McD's in the past roughly 55 years are burgers and once, about five years ago, a salad. Folks, the salads at McD's are, near as I can tell, made of paper decorated to resemble lettuce, etc.)  

They insisted that I try one and I said, yeah, sure, okay. Because why not? At least I'd know what all the fuss was about. So I took a bite of a McNugget.

Honestly? I don't get what the appeal is. It didn't have much taste at all. Not of chicken, not of batter, not of fat. Nada. Presumably that's why the sauces are crucial to the experience.  (For the full record, I ate half the nugget offered to me; I could see no point in finishing that sucker.)

*2: The researcher is quoted in Maria Godoy, “What's In That Chicken Nugget? Maybe You Don't Want To Know,” October 11, 2013; accessed online.)

*3: Richard D. deShazo, Steven Bigler, and  Leigh Baldwin Skipworth, “The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads “Chicken Little,” American Journal of Medicine 126 (2103): 1019.

*4: See note *1 for source. 

*5: Kathryn Doyle, "Just What Is In That Chicken Nugget?" Reuters.com, October 4, 2013; accessed online.  

*6: So when The Publicist chided me (gently), I got busy and slammed out a bunch of words about a couple of other meat-related reports recently in the news.  Heh. The result, commented a gentleman on Twitter, was “ill-tempered.” 

Heh again. Damn right, man. I am ill-tempered. I’m fucking tired from writing this book (I’m not complaining, just explaining) and honestly? Having spent seven years reading about all this stuff (“stuff” being things like long reports about corporate conspiracies, warning about the contents of chicken nuggets, the evils of agriculture, how farmers-feed-the-world, etc.), the chatter about all this stuff is, well, more bits of blather in several hundreds YEARS worth of blather. 

You know? Because that’s how my brain “reads” current news: as old news. 

So yeah, the chicky nuggets thing is old news and the way it’s reported irritates the crap out of me, so yeah, it’s a yawn and I’m cranky.

*7: It comes with the territory: Throw some facts around and people assume there’s a hidden agenda, or that said facts are in service of a specific opinion/point of view. Nevah assume. 

Folks, you’re givin’ me waaaay too much credit for being “on” one side or the other of most meat-related issues. You are. Seriously. 

As for me: I long ago adopted the view that opinions based on lots and lots of facts are complex opinions and require more than sound bites to explain and more than 15 seconds (or whatever the shelf life is of a sound bite) to digest. 

*8: By the way, that article I cited above? Took me roughly 25 seconds to locate using Google. For most of my research, I use other databases, the kind that are for-pay and are most accessible at research libraries, but in this case I went for fast and simple so as to prove my point.