My version of a spooky story…

In honor of Halloween, I thought I would tell a spooky story — a tale so horrible that when I read it the other night, I couldn’t fall asleep.  I laid awake in bed, blinking at the ceiling thinking, “How can this be true?”  But it is true.  Very, very true.



My story is called, “Anatomy of a Chicken McNugget”.

The book I’m reading is, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and the section that kept me up all night was about the 38 ingredients that go into a MacDonalds chicken nugget.  Are you ready?

“Of the 38 ingredients it takes to make a McNugget, 13 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 leaches 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.”


Just the sheer amount of corn in a McNugget is scary for many reasons, but mostly because most people don’t know that there is any corn in a McNugget at all.  It’s not really advertised as a corn product, as far as I know.  (Corn — it takes like chicken!)  But there’s more to the McNugget than just corn… much, much more….

“McNuggets also contain several completely synthetic ingredients, quasi-edible substances that ultimately come not from a corn or soybean field but from a petroleum refinery or chemical plant.  These chemicals are what make modern processed foods 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 the 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 (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 the 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.”


Wasn’t there a MacDonald’s advertising campaign that had happy people exclaiming, “I love McNuggets so much I hardly even notice the sense of suffocation!”  Or that one with the couple sitting at home and the wife keeps saying, “Honey, would you answer phone!”  The husband laughs and says, “The phone’s not ringing.  Your ears are ringing because you just ate a McNugget!”  Then they both vomit and collapse.

Well, that’s my scary story.  But the part I find scary is not that MacDonalds would create such a disgusting and unhealthy food product that is eaten by mostly children.  After all, they are a giant corporation and gigantic profit is their number one concern.

What I find scary is that the FDA — the entity that is designed to protect people, approved the McNugget.

That’s just spooky.


  • Caro says:

    If chicken breast or thigh is on special at the supermarket, I buy as much as I can, slice it into strips, coat it in flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs or cous cous (dry), then bake it all and freeze into meal sized portions – got to be healthier and my kid still thinks he’s having a treat – does require defrosting though. I am a huge slow cooker fan as well – even cook whole chickens in them and they are great for chickpeas!

  • Ginny says:

    I get your point: chemical additives to food = bad; whole, organic food = good. Now, I have a serious question. What do I do on those days where I have to rush home from work, grab the kids, drop one off at a practice/sporting event/club meeting/etc, take the other one to a dance class/play date/etc, then gather them up again and head home where to make a nutritious, wholesome meal would add another hour or so to their already stretched-out wait for supper. If I choose to pass on the fast food, what’s my healthy option?

    • Holly Hester says:

      Good question — well, you could get a slow cooker (maybe you have one) and load it up in the morning with chili or a whole chicken with just a bunch of BBQ sauce poured on it. Then it’s all ready right when you get home. If I’m on top of it enough to do this in the morning, I’m practically weeping with joy when I get home late in the afternoon. Pasta and a can of sauce is quick and while they’re waiting you could just give them fruit. Sometimes I just make pancakes (is that awful to say? I don’t know. It’s easy.) And if I haven’t done anything like that or I’m too tired I just pick up a pizza on the way home. Every town has a local pizza shop so I go to the one in ours because I know making their pizzas right there and not having all the stuff just shipped in big trucks across the country. But really, I LOVE my slow cooker — especially now that the weather is turning cold and you can load it up with potatoes, etc. Hope that helps!

      • Ginny says:

        Thanks very much! We do have a slow cooker — we should just use it more! I like the idea of pizza. I always clumped it with fast food, but you’re right — local places make it right there; it’s not frozen or trucked in.

        • Holly Hester says:

          You’re welcome! Hope it helps. I am not an naturally organized meal person at all and I’ve been really trying to work on this area because it makes life so much easier. I hate coming home with everyone at 5:45 in the afternoon and everyone is starving and staring at ME and I have no idea what we’re going to eat! So for those days if I can do the slow cooker, suddenly, I feel so amazing about myself!!!

Comments? Fire away.