Well Being

McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets Come In Ball, Bone, Boot, or Bell Shapes

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chicken mcnuggets
If you're like me, you like to think that chicken nuggets are breaded, fried pieces of chicken meat. Not even. According to McDonald's most recent ‘behind-the-scenes' reveal, their McNuggets only come in four shapes: ball, bone, boot or bell. (Check out Business Insider‘s photo to see for yourself.) They're clearly meant to make you feel as if you're getting real chunks of chicken meat–not some kind of uniform chicken good that's shaped into a bite-size piece, which is, in fact, exactly what you're getting.

In an effort to keep consumers from getting totally creeped out by their processed fast food, McDonald's has been on a quest since last year to make you feel like they're being totally transparent. They started with some interesting videos: First, they told us why burgers in McDonald's commercials look so much better than the burgers we actually get at a McDonald's drive-thru; then telling us why American “special sauce” is so much grosser than the Canadian version. And now they even have a web page devoted to reader questions (like “is your food even real?”).

One customer recently asked why their boot-shaped Chicken McNuggets are so much tastier. Their “funny” answer doesn't really give an explanation (although, with the level of research and planning that goes into their food, I'd be surprised if they don't have piles of data about how customers respond to various shapes of food), but they are fully open about the fact that their nuggets are uniformly shaped:

Funny you should say that, Michael. We've found that an above average number of people from St. John's share your preference for the delicious boot-shaped McNugget. Could be because it's the same shape as the Southern Region of Newfoundland. Just kidding. But seriously! Compare it to a map!


Anyway . . . there are four different Chicken McNugget shapes (the “boot,” “ball,” “bow-tie” and “bell”). We think they're all great, but we're glad you have a favourite!

And they even invited Business Insider to come learn about McNuggets during a quality testing session in Oak Park, Illinois. Here's the gist of what they learned:

The McDonald's sensory team explained that Chicken McNuggets have four distinct shapes and in order to have a chance to meet the McDonald's “Gold Standard” for quality, they have to match them as perfectly as possible.


But the perfect McNugget needs a lot more than a well-aligned shape, according to McDonald's standards. The company tests flavor, breading texture, meat texture, bite firmness, color, coating, and a whole lot more. It's a strangely thorough process.

(To be clear, this isn't thorough, like “I stayed up late making sure that all of my pie crusts turned out perfectly” thorough. Thorough like “we turned chicken into a chicken substance that can be perfectly shaped by machines and disseminated all over the world to thousands of perfectly uniform restaurants” thorough.)

What they didn't address in front of Business Insider, or on their customer questions site is how McDonald's chicken nuggets are actually made. And that, my friends, will make you never want to eat them again. Chicken nuggets are made from a delightful paste called MSC (mechanically separated chicken). Much like the controversial “pink slime” that caused so much debate last year, it's a meat puree mixed with ammonia to kill unwanted germs. It's then pumped up with preservatives and artificial flavors.

Here are McDonald's chicken nugget ingredients:

White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning [autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, sodium phosphates, natural flavor (botanical 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, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, dextrose, corn starch


Photo: flickr user johnsember