Article Thumbnail

Why Can’t We Actually Put Chicken in Our Chicken Nuggets?

Even without the current rubber contamination, ‘chicken’ is a pretty optimistic description for the average nug

Oh, the horror! Tyson Foods is currently recalling more than 36,000 pounds of chicken nuggets that may be contaminated with rubber. While there have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions associated with the consumption of these products, federal officials have classified the situation as a Class I Recall, which is defined as such: “This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”


The recall began when consumers contacted Tyson Foods, the second largest meat processor and marketer in the world, to complain about small pieces of blue rubber in their White Meat Panko Chicken Nuggets. While the multinational corporation claims that the contaminants were only found in a “very small number of packages,” they still decided to recall more than 36,000 pounds of product “out of an abundance of caution.” * insert side-eye emoji here *

Tyson Foods also explained that rubber is on the equipment used to produce their nuggets, so some pieces were accidentally mixed with the products. In response, the USDA is currently urging consumers to discard or return their White Meat Panko Chicken Nuggets, adding that the contaminated products “bear establishment number ‘P-13556’ inside the USDA mark of inspection.”

But how did rubber-filled chicken nuggets pass that USDA inspection, anyway? Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, theorizes that it may have something to do with the recent government shutdown, which possibly reduced the number of available USDA food inspectors. “Even at its best, when all of the employees are surveying the food for safety, plenty of contaminants end up in the food supply,” she explains. “Part of the reason being that there simply aren’t enough inspectors, and there are way too many foods that need to be inspected.”

This employee shortage becomes especially worrisome when you consider just how many times Tyson Foods alone has been forced to recall their products. Last year, they recalled more than 3,000 pounds of breaded chicken products thought to be contaminated with clear plastic. In 2016, they recalled more than 132,000 pounds of chicken nuggets that were also believed to be contaminated with hard plastic. And in 2015, they recalled more than 52,000 pounds of bad-smelling chicken wings. It doesn’t stop there, so you can only imagine just how much food has been wasted.

Or should that be “food”? Because contaminates aside, it’s not like massive corporations, like Tyson Foods or McDonald’s, are making chicken nuggets with only chicken to start with. But why must our beloved nugs be filled with pink slime and filler ingredients, rather than just straight-up poultry? “The fillers make the chicken nuggets (a) taste better; (b) last longer; (c) meet the taste preferences that people expect; and (d) cheaper to produce,” Hunnes explains. “If you’re serving 100 percent chicken, it costs more per pound than a product that’s only 50 percent chicken, the rest being cheap flour and other items.”

Ah, it makes sense now: We’ve all been conditioned from childhood to enjoy the taste of cheap, fake shit pretending to be chicken, and the companies that taught us to love this stuff profit from that. The good, ol’ American food industry: Would you really expect anything else?