October 15 2013
Chicken Nuggets: The Autopsy
Patrice J. Lee
Crock Science Cooks Up Findings Against Chicken Nuggets
Researchers recently decided to “investigate” the contents of chicken nuggets and found that they are not made of 100% chicken as advertised but include fat and other contents. The methodology behind the experiment was laughable and the American Journal of Medicine ought to be ashamed for legitimizing this junk science by publishing the results.
The media have had a field day with this story. On a local morning news program, I listened as the anchorwoman expressed disdain for fast food chicken nuggets because, according to her, they are not real chicken. Like many other journalists and mothers out there, this news caster jumped to conclusions and raised alarm which the researchers no doubt intended.
Here’s what happened:
Researchers from the University of Mississippi Medical Center were curious as to what fast food chicken nuggets were really made of. After all, they are incredibly popular in the U.S. In 2011, 50 billion pounds of broiler chickens were raised and sold, according to the National Chicken Council. And, about 50 percent of that meat was made into nuggets and similar products. However, the researchers found that for all this meat sold, much of the chicken nuggets we are served do not contain simply breast meat, as many fast food chains claim.
“Striated muscle (chicken meat) was not the predominate component in either nugget,” the researchers noted in their study. “Fat was present in equal or greater quantities along with epithelium, bone, nerve, and connective tissue.” Epithelium is one of the four types of animal tissue, and usually lines cavities and structures throughout the body. The study ultimately concluded that “chicken nuggets are mostly fat, and their name is a misnomer.”
The researchers withheld the names of the fast food chains they visited because they felt “that would generate negative publicity off topic.” But whether it was Wendy’s, Burger King or McDonald’s the damage inflicted on a whole nugget industry is done.
What was not reported was the shoddy methodology these researchers used to come to their conclusions. Dissecting a chicken nugget on one random day should not serve as the basis for a nationally recognized study that people use to make informed decisions.
According to the study “The Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets Reads “Chicken Little” here’s what they did:
“We bought an order of chicken nuggets over the counter at each of 2 national fast food chain restaurants near our academic health center in Jackson, Mississippi. One nugget was selected at random from each box and fixed in formalin, processed for histology, and embedded in paraffin. Sections were cut with a microtome and stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) or trichome stain for microscopic evaluation.”
You read that right: one chicken nugget at two different restaurants. If the researchers had dissected a box of ten nuggets out of 100 that might be slightly more believable, but not one lone nugget. I can’t help but question their other work if such small sampling and simple testing passes for legitimate researcg. That the Journal of Medicine even published the findings should call into question the Journal’s credibility as well.
The chicken industry isn’t letting these researchers wring its neck without a fight and has fired back in a statement:
“This study evaluates only two chicken nugget samples out of the billions of chicken nuggets that are made every year. It is not scientifically justifiable to make inferences about an entire product category given a sample size of two.
“Chicken nuggets tend to have an elevated fat content because they are breaded and fried. But it’s no secret what is in a chicken nugget – most quick service restaurants have nutritional information posted in the store or on their Website.”
This study joins other examples of alarmism in the U.S. So-called experts engage in junk science experiments and draw conclusions based on questionable methodologies. It all serves to advance a specific social agenda. They want to scare us out of or into certain behaviors and to shame one industry while rewarding another that they find more favorable.
This time the target is chicken nuggets. While these researchers would have us believe that they have exposed a food cover up, the real wrong doing is misleading the American people with an experiment that a fourth-grader would know is a non-representative sample. Let’s hope moms and dads don’t fall for the headlines or the hype.