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  • If you grew up in the United States in the last 70 years chances are

  • you've had a chicken nugget.

  • Whether you're nuggets came in a McDonald's box or from the freezer

  • aisle, chicken nuggets have long been a staple for American families.

  • But have you ever eaten one cooked from scratch, at home?

  • We did an experiment inspired by celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver.

  • If people saw how chicken nuggets were made, would they still want to \eat them?

  • Do you know what's in a chicken nugget?

  • No.

  • Are you worried about what's in a chicken nugget?

  • Yes, I am sometimes.

  • No I don't, but I highly doubt it's top chicken.

  • Pink slime.

  • No that's why I don't eat very often because, it's kind o... I

  • think it's like mystery meat.

  • I know it's like, just a chicken cut up and different, like maybe bones are in there.

  • We acknowledge the makeup of chicken nuggets is...

  • questionable.

  • The treats history has been marred by bad press.

  • Yet Americans ate 2.3 billion servings of them in restaurants last year.

  • However, demand for chicken nuggets at fast food outlets and restaurants has stagnated.

  • Experts say that's because the chicken nugget isn't a huge profit

  • driver and restaurants aren't likely to innovate around them.

  • Restaurants only have so much room on their menu, and as a low cost item

  • nuggets aren't a big moneymaker.

  • Customers expect to be able to buy large quantities of nuggets at super low prices.

  • And the future doesn't look better for chicken nuggets growth.

  • Their menu penetration is expected to drop by 5.4 percent in the next four years.

  • Over the past 10 years, nuggets have dropped off the kids menu by 10

  • percent while chicken tenders have increased by 25 percent.

  • So why is demand for nuggets flatlining?

  • First we have to understand what made them so popular in the first place.

  • Today, we can't help but associate chicken nuggets with McDonald's—

  • famous for selling large McNugget portions at low prices.

  • Credit for inventing chicken nuggets often goes to the Golden Arches.

  • But it turns out you have a scientist to thank for your chicken nugget creations.

  • McDonald's introduced chicken nuggets in 1983, years after a researcher

  • had laid the groundwork for them.

  • In the 1950s, a professor at Cornell University invented a variety of

  • processed chicken products, including chicken hotdogs and chicken

  • nuggets, to convince Americans to eat more chicken.

  • His work was for scientific research not commercial products.

  • And he didn't expect chicken nuggets to take off.

  • When the chicken nugget came out in the 1950s, they weren't too popular he said.

  • After World War II, processed foods were seen as safer and more

  • reliable food processing methods were developed during the wars to make

  • sure soldiers on the frontlines were fed.

  • After the war, companies had to find another market for their new technology.

  • But attitude toward food processing has changed dramatically in the past 30-40 years maybe.

  • When it was first introduced, people saw it as being sanitary because

  • human hands weren't you know touching the food.

  • They saw it as efficient because you could get food directly from the

  • field into a can or frozen.

  • And that was supposedly going to lock in the flavor.

  • In 1983, after the government recommended people eat less red meat,

  • McDonald's introduced the battered and fried chicken nugget.

  • Its McNugget Mania ad campaign cast the nugget as a cheap delicious snack to share.

  • [Ad] You can't resist them. Moms love them. Kids crunch them. Dads brings them home for the family.

  • Chicken nuggets became popular because they were inexpensive, uniform and easy to eat.

  • Regardless of whether your nugget comes from the drive-in or the frozen section,

  • You usually know what to expect.

  • People love to eat food with their hands.

  • A trend of Albala calls nuggetization.

  • Nuggetization also hides the origin of the food.

  • When you eat a chicken nugget, you really don't know what it is.

  • The fact that nuggets don't look like an animal makes them more popular.

  • Most people don't want to be reminded that their food used to moo or cluck.

  • It's not for ethical reasons or because people are eating less

  • meat, we're simply just squeamish.

  • McDonald's released its nuggets with three signature sauces:

  • barbecue, sweet sour, and hot mustard.

  • The product development director thought a variety of different flavors

  • would make the McNuggets more appealing to customers.

  • They were right.

  • Customers love nuggetized, easily dippable foods because sauce adds

  • another layer of customization to your order.

  • We've been eating chicken nuggets for years but three main factors are working against them.

  • Health concerns, bad press, and new competition. Consumer attitudes about health are changing.

  • Processed foods are falling out of favor as consumers look for more natural alternatives.

  • Very broadly across all consumers is a what we call the pursuit of

  • purity in our food, which is to say, we're looking for food that's

  • real, food that's authentic, food that's minimally processed.

  • In 2010, reports of chicken nuggets made from pink goop swept to the

  • Internet. A photo rumored to have been taken inside a plant making food

  • for McDonald's surfaced, and people said it showed mechanically

  • separated chicken, a product made by forcing bones with edible tissue

  • attached through a sieve.

  • Edible tissue includes whatever's left on the bone, including blood

  • vessels, cartilage, and skin.

  • McDonald said the photo doesn't show how it makes nuggets. Due

  • to changing consumer preferences.

  • It switched to using 100 percent white meat in nuggets in 2003. While

  • McDonald's promises to use 100 percent white meat.

  • It doesn't state what percentage of the nugget is meat.

  • In response to the pink goop photo McDonald's released a video from the

  • McNuggets supplier in Canada.

  • The video shows employees making a paste from chicken breast and skin

  • that will become nuggets.

  • McDonald's didn't respond to requests to comment for this video, but

  • their earnings call show consumers like the switch to white meat.

  • There isn't much regulation about what can and cannot be in a

  • nugget. Go to any frozen food aisle and you'll find gluten free chicken

  • nuggets, breast meat chicken nuggets, and even veggie nuggets.

  • Here's how the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines nuggets:

  • Nuggets are irregularly shaped, usually bite sized meat and or poultry products, which are

  • usually breaded and deep fat fried and intended to be used as finger foods.

  • There are three types: solid meat nuggets, ground meat nuggets, and nuggets meat from ground meat with additives.

  • The labeling rules are different for all three but one rule is constant.

  • Any breaded nugget products can be no more than 30 percent breading.

  • Nuggets made from solid pieces of meat can be labeled simply as nuggets.

  • The process to make nuggets that are ground meat, like what we made earlier, must be clear on the packaging.

  • For instance, chicken nugget chopped and formed.

  • Nuggets made from ground meat with additives like binders or water can be used

  • to describe a product but needs more detail.

  • The USDA says breaded nuggets shaped chicken patties is proper

  • labeling. The USDA labeling guidelines don't specify just how much meat a nugget must contain.

  • In 2013, researchers from the University of Mississippi studied the

  • composition of two nuggets and found that the nuggets contained more fat than meat.

  • The researchers got the nuggets from two national food chains but didn't identify which.

  • It's also worth noting that two nuggets is a very small sample size.

  • The bad press for nuggets didn't end with this study or with reports of pink goo.

  • A federal judge called McNuggets a McFrankenstein creation in 2003

  • after a group of teens claimed McDonald's food was making them obese.

  • Earlier this year, some of the country's biggest producers recalled over

  • 120,000 pounds of chicken nuggets. Consumers

  • found bits of plastic or wood in the nuggets or notice that they were labeled incorrectly.

  • And finally, there is another chicken product kids love: chicken strips.

  • While data found that chicken nuggets servings in restaurants

  • were slumping slightly, servings of chicken strips were actually on the rise in 2018 when compared to 2017.

  • Researchers say consumers aren't swapping nuggets for strips but that

  • the categories appeal to different groups.

  • Families with young children are more likely to purchase nuggets, while

  • adults or families with teens buy more strips.

  • Strips are seen as an upgraded or more wholesome version of chicken nuggets.

  • There's nothing new or innovative about a chicken strip it's been around for a long time.

  • But anytime you take something that the American consumer already loves and

  • you innovate around it or you elevate the form in some way, it creates opportunities for growth.

  • So we've seen a lot of people doing this.

  • Everybody from, you know, the world's largest restaurant chain,

  • McDonald's has a premium chicken strip offering now, to regional chains

  • that are springing up like Raising Cane's or Zaxby's.

  • Tempting consumers to buy more premium product, like a strip, means a higher margin for restaurants.

  • Chicken nuggets sort of have their home in fast food.

  • And as parents are more educated about, you know better quality

  • proteins and they're trading to more fast casual restaurant. I think

  • you're seeing more of a tendency for people to move to chicken strips

  • chicken tenders, which is something that kids really like. And

  • honestly, you know, people of all generations like chicken strips.

  • A low birth rate could also have something to do with nuggets' stagnation.

  • In 2017, the U.S. birthrate hit a 30 year low.

  • Americans aren't having enough babies to replace the population and population growth increasingly relies on immigration.

  • Data shows that chicken strips show up on restaurant menus more often

  • than chicken nuggets do, with a higher menu penetration of 14.2 percent.

  • However, over time, chicken strip menu penetration has also

  • declined and at a faster rate than nuggets.

  • Which begs the question: are consumers over them both?

  • Are chicken strips really a threat to chicken nuggets place at the top of the processed meat food chain?

  • Even though strips are gaining traction, there's no reason nuggets and strips can't thrive together.

  • At restaurants, Americans still eat a whopping 2.3 billion nuggets last year, compared to 1.5 billion strips.

  • So don't worry nugget lovers, there will still be nuggets to dip.

If you grew up in the United States in the last 70 years chances are

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