Is McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets Really Meaty?

If you’ve ever been to McDonald’s, then you’re definitely familiar with their chicken nuggets. These small bites are popular among kids and adults alike, but have you ever wondered what exactly is in a chicken nugget? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at McDonald’s chicken nuggets to determine just how meaty they really are.

What Are McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets Made Of?

Before we can determine how meaty McDonald’s chicken nuggets are, we need to first take a look at what they’re made of. According to McDonald’s website, their chicken nuggets are made with “white meat chicken, breaded and seasoned to perfection.” Sounds simple enough, right?

However, if you take a closer look at the ingredients list, you’ll see that their chicken nuggets contain a variety of additional ingredients, including:

  • Water
  • Modified starch
  • Salt
  • Seasoning (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavors, safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid)
  • Sodium phosphates
  • Natural flavor (plant source)
  • Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, bleached wheat flour, modified food starch, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch.
  • Oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness).

As you can see, McDonald’s chicken nuggets contain a whole lot more than just chicken. While the majority of the ingredients are fairly standard (such as water, salt, and flour), there are some more questionable additives as well, such as modified starch and autolyzed yeast extract.

How Much Actual Chicken Is In A Chicken Nugget?

So, we know that McDonald’s chicken nuggets contain a variety of ingredients, but how much of it is actually chicken? Unfortunately, McDonald’s doesn’t provide an exact percentage, but according to a study by the University of Mississippi, a chicken nugget from McDonald’s is only 50% chicken. The other 50% is a mixture of corn derivatives, sugars, leavening agents, and other additives.

Additionally, the study found that the majority of the chicken in the nugget was in the form of “mechanically separated chicken” (MSC). MSC is the process by which meat scraps (such as those left on the carcass after processing) are mechanically separated from the bone. This process can result in a product that’s similar in appearance to ground meat, but it can also result in a meat product that’s higher in fat and lower in quality.

Are McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets Healthy?

Given that McDonald’s chicken nuggets contain a variety of ingredients and only 50% actual chicken, it’s safe to say that they’re not exactly health food. In fact, a 6-piece serving of chicken nuggets from McDonald’s contains:

  • 250 calories
  • 13g fat
  • 420mg sodium
  • 14g protein

Additionally, because of their high fat and sodium content, eating chicken nuggets on a regular basis can contribute to health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

What Are Some Healthier Fast Food Chicken Options?

If you’re looking for a healthier fast food chicken option, there are plenty of choices available. Some of the best options from popular fast food chains include:

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich from Chick-fil-A
  • Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap from Chick-fil-A
  • Chicken Fajita Pita from Jack in the Box
  • Original Recipe Chicken Breast from KFC (yes, really!)
  • Spicy Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken from McDonald’s

When selecting a fast food chicken option, look for those that are grilled (rather than fried) and that come with plenty of vegetables and whole grains.


In conclusion, while McDonald’s chicken nuggets may taste good, they’re not exactly the epitome of health food. With a long list of ingredients and only 50% actual chicken, it’s clear that there are healthier options available. The next time you’re looking for a fast food chicken fix, consider trying one of the healthier options listed above.

Common Questions and Answers

  • Q: Do McDonald’s chicken nuggets contain pink slime?
    • A: McDonald’s stopped using pink slime (which is a meat byproduct) in their chicken nuggets in 2011.
  • Q: Are McDonald’s chicken nuggets made from mechanically separated chicken?
    • A: Yes, the majority of the chicken in McDonald’s chicken nuggets is made from mechanically separated chicken.
  • Q: How many calories are in a 10-piece serving of McDonald’s chicken nuggets?
    • A: A 10-piece serving of chicken nuggets from McDonald’s contains 440 calories.
  • Q: Do all fast food chicken nuggets contain a lot of additives?
    • A: It depends on the fast food chain. Some chains, such as Chick-fil-A, use minimal additives in their chicken nuggets.


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