It’s Time We All Learned Exactly How McNuggets Are Made

If you’ve been avoiding Chicken McNuggets since the word on pink slime made the rounds a few years back, it’s time to educate yourself. Pink slime is actually a half-truth, according to Snopes. Technically known as mechanically separated meat (MSM), there aren’t mashed-up bones and beaks involved, and there’s no ammonia bath, either.

Oh, and one more thing: McDonald’s hasn’t used MSM since 2003.

So what do they use for their McNuggets, if not that pink, soft serve-esque meat paste? Spoiler alert: They use chicken. Yes. Actual chicken. That comes from, you know, real live chickens.

Allow Grant Imahara to walk you through the process. In the past, he’s given us a peek at the Golden Arches’ process of making McRibs and french fries, and now he’s back with a walkthrough of Tyson’s McNugget plant in Tennessee.

The video, filmed as a part of the series “How It’s Made” (and paid for by McDonald’s, so probably don’t expect 100 recent transparency), offers a fascinating look at the transformation chicken goes through to reach the finished product of molded, batter-dipped McNugget. Surely timed to underscore McDonald’s recent McNugget changes, the video does prove reassuring — particularly because the first thing Imahara’s tour guide, Tyson’s Principle Meat Scientist Amy Steward, shows him is the line of workers stripping meat from real chicken carcasses.

And yes — that’s all-white meat, just as advertised. The thighs and skin are separated from the breast meat, rib meat, and tenderloin. (Although later in the process, a bit of that skin will be added in for flavor.)

“This is the only part of the chicken that goes into the Chicken McNugget?” Imahara asks Steward.

“Absolutely,” she replies.

“Nothing else?”

“Nothing else.”

“No beaks?”

“No beaks.”

“No feet?”

“No feet.”

So there you go.

Chicken pulp for everyone!

From there, the meat is combined into a coarse grind, which helps preserve the meaty texture we all know and love, and is then mixed with that leftover chicken skin and marinating spices. Finally, the nuggets are formed, after which they go through batter, breader, and McDonald’s special tempura coating. Finally, they’re partially cooked to set the tempura and flash-frozen to lock in the flavor and juiciness.

And voila! McNuggets, ready for packaging, shipping, frying, and ultimately serving to the nugget-craving masses.

Check out the full video below, which is much more interesting than we could ever give in summary. And we won’t blame you if you grab some for lunch. After all those years of avoiding what you thought was a mass-produced bundle of preservatives and horror, it’s time to get your white-meat McNugget on.