Friday, 18 May 2012

Chicken nuggets

Prologue

My first experience of a chicken nugget was that it tasted like wet cardboard. Don’t ask me how I know what wet cardboard tastes like! The mistake I made was not to use the dipping sauce provided, which I admit did hide the wet cardboard taste. I try to avoid all chicken nuggets now and only eat one when obliged to by a charming granddaughter.
Wikipedia describes a chicken nugget thus:
“A chicken nugget is a chicken product moulded from meat slurry, breaded or battered, then deep-fried or baked. Fast food restaurants typically fry their nuggets in vegetable oil, such as coconut oil.
The chicken nugget was invented in the 1950s by Robert C. Baker, a food science professor at Cornell University, and published as unpatented academic work. Dr. Baker's innovations made it possible to form chicken nuggets in any shape. McDonald's recipe for Chicken McNuggets was created on commission from McDonald's by Tyson Foods in 1979 and the product was sold beginning in 1980.”

The term ‘meat slurry’ puts me off as it has great scope to hide whatever was put into it. Since it was designed by a university professor I can’t help wondering how many masters and doctorate theses were done on ‘chicken nuggets’.
What actually goes into chicken nuggets?

McDonalds

McDonalds have this following recipe:
“As of October 9, 2010, the ingredients are as follows: Chicken, water, salt, sodium phosphates. Battered and breaded with bleached wheat flour, water, wheat flour, modified food starch, salt, spices, wheat gluten, paprika, dextrose (sugar), yeast, garlic powder, rosemary, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and cottonseed oil with mono- and diglycerides, leavening (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate, monocalcium phosphate), natural flavor (plant source) with extractives of paprika. Fried in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicone derivative is added as an antifoaming agent. McDonald's ingredients can vary outside of the United States.”
The initial supply of tired-out egg laying chickens was insufficient for nugget demand and caused a problem until 1983 when the supply problem was resolved. It was not stated how the supply problem was resolved.

KFC

KFC have stopped production of Kentucky Nuggets in most countries since 1996 but they are still available in Australia and New Zealand. No details of a recipe are given but the nuggets are described as small pieces of white or dark meat crispy fried in their usual way. Their usual way seems to be:
Water, Seasoning (Soy Protein Concentrate, Salt, Rice Starch, Carrageenan, Dextrose, Onion Powder, Dehydrated Chicken Broth, Maltodextrin, Spice Extractives), Sodium Phosphate. Breaded with: Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Garlic Powder, Citric Acid, Enriched Wheat Flour (Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, With Not More Than 2% Calcium Silicate Added as an Anti Caking Agent.
This does not comply with the above definition of processed chicken nuggets and we can only assume that Kentucky Nuggets aint ‘real’ nuggets.

Some people have claimed that chicken slurry is used in place of chicken but I have failed to substantiate that reliably so far.

Ingham

Ingham has a brand of frozen chicken nuggets for you to cook at home (Price $9.96 per kg). The recipe is quoted thus:
“Ingredients
CHICKEN (56%), FLOUR (WHEAT, SOY), VEGETABLE OIL, WATER, STARCH (WHEAT), SALT, THICKENER (1404), SUGAR, EGG WHITE POWDER, YEAST, MINERAL SALT (451), GLUTEN (WHEAT), SOY LECITHIN (322), GROUND AND EXTRACTED SPICES, NATURAL COLOUR (160C), NATURAL FLAVOUR, VEGETABLE POWDER (GARLIC).
NO ARTIFICIAL COLOURS, FLAVOURS OR PRESERVATIVES
 ALTHOUGH GREAT CARE HAS BEEN TAKEN TO REMOVE BONES FROM THIS PRODUCT, SOME MAY REMAIN.”

Steggles

Steggles has a premium brand of chicken nuggets which are lightly seasoned chicken portions in a bread crumb coating (Price: $11.25 per kg). Since it seems to be real chicken pieces it fails the goo test for real chicken nuggets. The recipe is given as:
“Ingredients
Chicken Breast (40%), Water, Dehydrated Potato, Cereal Flours (Wheat, Maize, Rice), Vegetable Oil, Soy Protein, Salt, Maltodextrin, Milk Solids, Seasoning [Gelling Agent (508), Flavour Enhancers (631, 627)], Egg Powder, Thickeners (1404, 412, 415), Acidity Regulators (451, 450, 339, 500, 541), Emulsifier (481), Dextrose, Yeast Extract, Natural Colours (160c, 100).”

Conclusion

There is no doubt at all that the highly processed chicken nugget is an addictive food for some people and probably a very profitable sales line. You can choose to eat small chicken pieces cooked in the fast food stores’ famous crispy coating (a number of vendors are available) if you so desire. The same choice goes with frozen foods.

Epilogue

The more I researched this, the more I found just how entrenched chicken slurry was in manufacturing. The product description can be misleading giving you the impression you have unprocessed chicken breast meat, when it is in fact chicken slurry with ‘thickener’ moulded into the required shape. The product is normally coated in breadcrumbs, corn flakes or similar so that the actual ‘meat’ is hidden from view. The product will taste blander than chicken breast and will not have the stringy texture that is normal for chicken meat. It seems that processing the meat makes it more attractive for some people and any possible health considerations are put aside.

The chicken slurry is often made from old boilers, retired egg laying birds, which are too tough to sell as unprocessed meat pieces. In the end the only person who knows what is in the slurry is the person that feeds the machines.

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