October 12, 2010

It Appears That Chicken McNuggets Are Not Exactly Hot Dogs. But Neither Are Hot Dogs.

So in attempting to "report the controversy" over whether the pink chicken Silly Putty photo that's all over the net actually represents the contents of Chicken McNuggets, Daddy Types has been accused of "spreading false information" by no less an authority than "anonymous commenter."

I might dodge the charge by saying fine, it might be "out of date" information. Or I might say, Dude, it's a random internet photo plus Wonder Showzen. But let's take anonymous's contention seriously:

Snopes has a post on mechanically separated chicken that says MSM regulations and labeling requirements have become more stringent, and that MSM beef has been banned since the mad cow disease scare, and msm pork must be labeled as such, and hot dogs can't contain more than 20% MSM. Which sounds to me like, hello, there is MSM in hot dogs. Pork hot dogs, anyway.

As for the erroneous claims of MSM containing bones, feathers, beaks, etc, no one here said that, and in fact, the point of the previous post was to correct the misinformation about what that [alleged] McNugget putty picture really showed us.

Snopes addresses the McNuggets/Mechanically Separated Poultry issue thus:

Although McDonald's Chicken McNuggets are typically offered as an example of a popular MSP-based food, since 2003 that product has been made with all white meat rather than MSP.
The reformulation from 50/50 white and dark meat to "all white meat" was made in late 2003, in advance of the 2004 release of the documentary Supersize Me, which became the most widely distributed source of McNugget ingredient criticism to date.

Note that even the Snopes statement implies that pre-2004 McNuggets, the 50/50 white/dark ones, were, then, made from MSP.

And yes, it's a page on MSP generally, not McNuggets in particular, but Snopes also does not mention the 2010 CNN examination on Dr. Sanjay Gupta's blog into the differences between US and UK McNuggets, particularly the inclusion in the US McNugget of dimethylpolysiloxane, a silicone variant found in lipstick and Silly Putty, which the non-anonymous founder of Cooks Illustrated Magazine, Christopher Kimball, surmises is "required for the nuggets to hold their shape and texture after being extruded into nugget-shaped molds."

So if what freaked you out about that picture is the false idea that it was basically whole chicken puree, then you can rest easy. If, however, it was the reality that McNuggets are made from some still-unspecified combination of chicken parts that McDonald's is regulatorily allowed to call "white meat," plus some kind of silicone additive, that gets pushed through a McNugget extruder into one of four irrefutably distinct shapes--and no one is seriously arguing that McNuggets aren't processed and extruded, are they?--then you may continue as you were.

[On a side note, I have to take issue with CNN's quote from NYU food science professor Marion Nestle, who, besides really not liking Enfamil's chocolate toddler formula, also says that "As a general rule, though, she advocates not eating any food with an ingredient you can't pronounce." Which is just ridiculous, for at least two reasons. 1) Pronunciation is not an effective deterrent for the reasonably educated; it only serves to foment anti-science bias and anti-intellectualism. I can pronounce tertiary butylhydroquinone and dimethylpolysiloxane just fine, but I am apparently supposed to see those on an ingredient list and go, "Science is hard! Let's go farming!"

2) It's an unfair burden on the stupid, for whom Nestle's condescending rule of thumb seems to be intended. The lack of access to fresh, unprocessed foods in lower-income neighborhoods is well documented, so where are they supposed to shop and eat, exactly? And worse, the truly stupid will probably be all, "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun!" and die fat and happy, thinking they knew what's what all along. Anyway.]

Snopes also does NOT address the oft-quoted 2003 statement by federal judge Robert Sweet in New York that McNuggets are "a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook." Of course, most people who quote that statement also ignore or don't know that it was not a ruling of any kind, and carried no legal weight. Instead, the judge had offered it merely as an illustration of a hypothetical line of argument that lawyers for the families of two obese, teenage McDonald's addicts might pursue instead of the vague, undocumented claim that he threw out, which was basically "McDonald's told us it was healthy, and now we're fat!"

I'll be revisiting this issue a lot going forward, because October is pumpkin pie season at McDonald's, and so I have to rejigger my daily caloric intake to accommodate a dessert whose ingredients are pumpkins, pie, and love.

1 Comment

I commend you on expanding your post, but I hope you don't feel too attacked by Anonymous commentators. Who knows what their motivations are?

But since we're on the topic, is there a clear reason why they're called "McNuggets" now instead of "Chicken McNuggets?" I have always assumed that it's because they *still* are not primarily made of chicken by weight.

I was quite amused by the clip you posted (I think...?) about the kids loving the pseudo-McNuggets made by the chef, which horrified the chef. I think he must not have much interaction with kids. Grownups pick up on social cues and I am certain any grownup in that kitchen would realize that the answer which would please the chef would be "No way, I won't eat that thing!" but kids would say "I know it's chicken and it smells GREAT!" and answer accordingly.

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