Chicken McWhat???

We all eat fast food at one point in time or another. I am just as guilty as the next person in this regard. I have however been trying to cut back on my family’s exposure to chemicals and toxins through food. I feel that everything we put in and on our bodies affects us more than we are willing to admit. And some of us honestly just don’t know. And then some of us just don’t want to know. I have recently learned some very alarming things about the ingedients and processing of fast foods. This particularly struck a nerve within me because I have a toddler who more often than not will ask for nuggets…but bet your McNuggets, never again my friend…never again! And here’s why!

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan is a fascinating book that details the changing eating habits of Americans. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It explains how, over the last 30 years, we have become a nation that eats vast quantities of corn – much more so than Mexicans, the original “corn people.”

Most folks assume that a chicken nugget is just a piece of fried chicken, right? Wrong! Did you know, for example, that a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget is 56% corn?

What else is in a McDonald’s Chicken McNugget? Besides corn, and to a lesser extent, chicken, The Omnivore’s Dilemma describes all of the thirty-eight ingredients that make up a McNugget – one of which I’ll bet you’ll never guess. During this part of the book, the author has just ordered a meal from McDonald’s with his family and taken one of the flyers available at McDonald’s called “A Full Serving of Nutrition Facts: Choose the Best Meal for You.” These two paragraphs are taken directly from The Omnivore’s Dilemma:

“The ingredients listed in the flyer suggest a lot of thought goes into a nugget, that and a lot of corn. Of the thirty-eight ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, I counted thirteen that can be derived from corn: the corn-fed chicken itself; modified cornstarch (to bind the pulverized chicken meat); mono-, tri-, and diglycerides (emulsifiers, which keep the fats and water from separating); dextrose; lecithin (another emulsifier); chicken broth (to restore some of the flavor that processing leeches out); yellow corn flour and more modified cornstarch (for the batter); cornstarch (a filler); vegetable shortening; partially hydrogenated corn oil; and citric acid as a preservative. A couple of other plants take part in the nugget: There’s some wheat in the batter, and on any given day the hydrogenated oil could come from soybeans, canola, or cotton rather than corn, depending on the market price and availability.

According to the handout, McNuggets also contain several completely synthetic ingredients, quasiedible substances that ultimately come not from a corn or soybean field but form a petroleum refinery or chemical plant. These chemicals are what make modern processed food possible, by keeping the organic materials in them from going bad or looking strange after months in the freezer or on the road. Listed first are the “leavening agents”: sodium aluminum phosphate, mono-calcium phosphate, sodium acid pyrophosphate, and calcium lactate. These are antioxidants added to keep the various animal and vegetable fats involved in a nugget from turning rancid. Then there are “anti-foaming agents” like dimethylpolysiloxene, added to the cooking oil to keep the starches from binding to air molecules, so as to produce foam during the fry. The problem is evidently grave enough to warrant adding a toxic chemical to the food: According to the Handbook of Food Additives, dimethylpolysiloxene is a suspected carcinogen and an established mutagen, tumorigen, and reproductive effector; it’s also flammable. But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to “help preserve freshness.” According to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food: It can comprise no more than 0.02 percent of the oil in a nugget. Which is probably just as well, considering that ingesting a single gram of TBHQ can cause “nausea, vomiting, ringing in the ears, delirium, a sense of suffocation, and collapse.” Ingesting five grams of TBHQ can kill.”

Bet you never thought that was in your chicken McNuggets!

About Mamamojo

My name is T. I am a homeschooling, home/water birthing, dreadlocked, special needs mama to four beautiful daughters. I'm married to my best friend. I am a natural childbirth and breastfeeding advocate. I have done some volunteer work as a peer counselor with WIC and as a doula with Birthwell Partners and plan to be a midwifery assistant one day. My blog was created to put some alternative information out there about breastfeeding, childbirth & other issues regarding motherhood and life in general. I hope that you enjoy reading here and visit me often. Thanks for reading!
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10 Responses to Chicken McWhat???

  1. Christi says:


  2. Kym says:

    WOW. Ugh. Not that it was a regular part of our diets, but on occasion…never again here, either. Thanks so much for enlightening me!

  3. Adventures In Babywearing says:

    My older boys had already grown fond of Happy Meals before we got wiser about our food choices. We say no to fast food, unless it’s an emergency. Thankfully we’ve had no emergencies yet. That transition has been hard (and a hard one for the grandparents when they want to take the kids for fast food) but it gets easier and easier to say no!

  4. Val says:

    Just in case you have a hard time explaining this to the 2 yr old who just ask for them… lol… here is a recipe that has replaced them in my household very well.

    Take chicken breast
    chop it into squares

    In a bowl, mix together 1 cup Betty Crocker Potato Buds (which are nothing but freeze dried potatoes), 1/4 cup parmesean cheese, 3 Tbs of melted butter (which I have omited before for budget reasons with no major issues), and a bit of pepper.

    Dip the small squares of chicken into a beaten egg, and then roll in the potato bud batter. Cook in a 400* oven until golden (usually about 15 to 20 minutes.

    Dip in catsup. They are a great substitute. 😉 Have them with homemade fries (which are SO easy that I can’t imagine why more don’t make them) and you have your own “happy meal”.

    Garentee’d to make a 2 yr old happy. 😀


  5. Jen says:

    HOLY CRAP! We rather eat there but in a bind we do….We never will again!
    Thanks for the input

  6. Tara says:

    I agree with Christi- I had to read it twice…yuck!

  7. Stina says:

    I will be buying this book ASAP!

  8. pamela says:

    i love you. i love your blog!

  9. Ivy says:

    EEEWWW! No to mcNuggets!

  10. Gina says:

    If you liked this book, and learned a great deal from it, you may want to try reading “The China Study,” next. T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and his son, Colin Campbell, wrote it. It contains multiple peer reviewed studies, and encompasses 44 years’ worth of research, and nutrition’s function and effects on the body.

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