- Warm, bite-sized and sort-of white, they are the favoured
fast food of millions of children who believe they are eating chicken.
- Twenty-five years after the first boneless, reconstituted
chunk was sold to McDonald's by a supplier, the chicken nugget leads sales
of "value-added" poultry products.
- It is a "McFrankenstein creation", according
to the New York judge who, in a court case involving McDonald's last year,
identified a long list of nugget ingredients, including "anti-foaming
- A large Australian chicken processor describes a nugget
as a mouthful of batter, water, soybean (sometimes passing as chicken),
skin, fat and - entirely dependent on how much you've paid - chicken meat
- In 2002, the Australian Consumers Association tested
14 popular nugget brands. The study found chicken filling often made up
less than half of each nugget. Fat per average serve was as high as 31
grams. And none contained real chicken chunks, but "manufactured"
or "formed" chicken.
- The consumer group wants tougher labelling. "The
labels won't say if 57 per cent chicken is a nice piece of chicken breast
or skin and off-cuts," says its food policy officer, Clare Hughes.
- Philip Tana, manager of operations and part-owner of
Red Rooster, does not like the term "manufactured" chicken. "We
prefer 'further-processed' chicken. The chicken is still grown and they
then harvest the meat."
- Red Rooster nuggets are 56 per cent "formed"
chicken, but Mr Tana says the ingredients are "not different to what
any housewife or chef would use.
- "If we took them off the menu there would be an
- Perth-based Canon Foods processes 80 million nuggets
each year. Chief executive Richard Pace says
- chicken is ground to five-millimetre particles, then
skin and soybean added with water to make an emulsion.
- Canon's nuggets vary depending on the client, with the
more expensive one containing white meat. An average nugget contains one-third
batter, up to 10 per cent water, and skin.
- "Depending on the price, water can be a replacement
for chicken to make the nugget cheaper," Mr Pace says. Soybean is
also often used as a chicken substitute, but not by Canon, he says.
- Steggles recently changed its nugget recipe to lower
the fat and salt level and whiten the meat.
- McDonald's Australia would not comment on whether the
recipe used here was the same as that in the US, described by the New York
judge as having "twice the fat of a hamburger".
- A spokeswoman said local nuggets were "65 per cent
- First published March 23, 2004