Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Chicken McNuggets Revisited - fun food crosspost

First, lets get this straight.  Jamie Oliver is a madman who showed us how we process our meat in America, but I love him.  (seems that he has backed off his Food Revolution soapbox, though it was a noble feat), and fearless food author, US Berkeley Prof and activist, Michael Pollan is awesome. 

When signing into aol (yes I still have an aol account), i saw a featured article on the birth of the Chicken McNugget and felt compelled to read, albeit with a bit of trepidation.  I don't eat them, but I used to eat them.  I served them to my girls when they were little, and I felt, well, responsible to know.

That being said, here is the copy that describes the process that was conceived of and perfected by now deceased ('06) Cornell professor Robert C. Baker in 1963.  Feel free to access Maryn McKenna's entire Huffington Post article here.  Apparently Baker, a poultry expert, and his students concocted and perfected a number of food items during his time at Cornell.  Having relatives in upstate New York State, I understand the interest in wanting to promote the business of chicken farmers.

"The whole process—recipe, box design, sales records, even predictions of how much it would cost to add a chicken-stick manufacturing line to a poultry processing plant—was described in the Cornell publication Agricultural Economics Research in April 1963.

Baker’s prototype nugget, developed with student Joseph Marshall, mastered two food-engineering challenges: keeping ground meat together without putting a skin around it, and keeping batter attached to the meat despite the shrinkage caused by freezing and the explosive heat of frying. They solved the first problem by grinding raw chicken with salt and vinegar to draw out moisture, and then adding a binder of powdered milk and pulverized grains. They solved the second by shaping the sticks, freezing them, coating them in an eggy batter and cornflake crumbs, and then freezing them a second time to -10 degrees. With trial and error, the sticks stayed intact. Baker, Marshall, and three other colleagues came up with an attractive box, designed a dummy label, and made enough of the sticks to sell them for 26 weeks in five local supermarkets. In the first 6 weeks, they sold 200 boxes per week."

Enter McDonalds, who had been looking for a beef alternative and bingo, the McNugget was born.

While I am not a fan of the McNugget, most of us have eaten them.  On this 2nd day of 2013, I am glad to know what is going into my body when I eat it.  I am not certain that the process that Baker perfected, as well as the ingredients used, are the same ingredients that McDonalds is using now.

Do you have a favorite fast food of dubious content and origin?

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