There is an infamous picture that has been floating around the Internet since 2010 of what appears to be pink soft serve ice cream. Then you click on the picture and are told it is how McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets are made; eyeballs, brains, and all.
Ew, gross! Right?
But when you go to the fact-checking website Snopes.com, you learn that while the picture does indeed feature “mechanically separated chicken,” this is not a photograph of actual Chicken McNuggets being made.
I wanted to see what McDonald’s website had to say about all this. Sure enough, there is actually a page called “Response to Chicken McNugget Rumors.” They don’t address how exactly they make their nuggets, but instead focus on rumors about the ingredients in them:
“We welcome the conversation about our food. What’s really important is that people have the truth & facts. The truth is, our Chicken McNuggets are made with 100% USDA Grade A Chicken.”
Well said. The chicken itself is Grade A. And honestly, I don’t think the quality of the food is necessarily at question here. I think the reason so many people are fascinated by “mechanically separated chicken” is because we just simply want to know, how is our food made?
(Unless you search “Meet Your Meat” on YouTube, narrated by Alec Baldwin, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll be exposed to the living conditions and slaughter of factory-farmed animals.)
Fortunately, my hero Jamie Oliver shed some light on the topic of mechanically separated chicken on his show, Food Revolution. After watching this clip below, it’s very obvious that there are no eyeballs, but yet still, this “pink sludge” which is the substance of chicken nuggets and chicken patties is A) disgusting to watch being processed and B) still evidently delicious.
So I will assume that McDonald’s process is a more glorified version of the one Jamie Oliver demonstrates, using only white meat. We can’t know for sure. Actually, if anything, I would almost defend McDonald’s in the way I recently did regarding them sponsoring the Olympics.
Why give them a hard time just because they’re so good at making processed meat products that America loves so much? I think it’s important to think “outside the restaurant.” As in, inside our grocery stores, for starters- and therefore, what’s in our freezers in our homes.
I guess for me, knowing that our society continues to choose to eat processed meats made from hormone-induced animals that physically can not reproduce sexually, which are butchered and processed by illegal immigrants who can easily be deported while their meat processing employers get away with hiring them, what I wonder is what really does cross the line of being “too gross to eat”?
If chopped up eyeballs and brains taste good, and they are convenient and easy for us parents to make for our kids… why not?
How is eating mechanically separated chicken so much better than actually eating eye balls?
We decide that eating a chicken’s brain is disgusting, yet eating the veins and muscle and blood in a rib eye steak is not. Culturally, certain body parts are acceptable to eat and others are not. Veins, good. Brains, bad.
Of course, as seen in the Jamie Oliver clip, many of us will eat anything (and not question it) as long as it’s convenient and tastes good.
The bottom line is this, it’s pretty darn easy to turn a blind eye to the mysterious processing of the food we eat. And it’s surprisingly natural not to question it in the name of convenience and “good taste.”
I wasn’t okay with that. I decided to turn a good eye to the food we eat. That’s why I write so much about this kind of stuff.
As a dad, questioning things like this are important to me. Back in the Eighties and Nineties when I was growing up, we didn’t really know better. We didn’t have the Internet or the book Eating Animals or documentaries on Netflix like Food Inc. and Forks Over Knives to tell us any better, in such a hip yet thorough format.
Sure, we all want a better life for our kids than the one we had. That’s part of being a parent. I want not only for my son to question where his food comes from, but also for me to have the answers for him.
“That’s ironic- a fast food company is giving free burgers and fries to Olympic athletes and buying ads for everyone to see during a world-wide athletic event? Isn’t that sort of defeating the purpose?”
So yes, I fell for it, Mr. Headline Maker. But then I kept thinking about it. Isn’t it sort of a double standard for us to pinpoint a major contributor of America’s malnutrition when there are plenty of others doing the same thing?
I think of how Coca-Cola is typically a sponsor of middle school and high school sports. It’s common for young athletes to receive a free t-shirt with the classic logo on it, along with the school’s name. Not to mention, when I was growing up, there were soda machines conveniently placed right outside the gym doors.
Really? Think about adding 3 tablespoons of sugar into any 12 ounce serving of any kind of food. Isn’t that kind of weird? Or disgusting? Maybe even unnecessary?
Yeah, I know. There are diet sodas too, if you trust forms of aspartame. I don’t, sorry.
I’ve heard that my generation (around age 30 and younger) focuses on the planning of advertisements more than any generation before. I know it’s true for me. I’m always eager to spot ironic sponsors for any event, whether it’s for something athletic or even the ads showing up here on this site. (I’m still waiting to see a “dad ad.” on Parents.com.)
But honestly, does anyone really care about ironic sponsorship? Does McDonald’s giving Olympic athletes free food really affect our lifestyle choices anyway?
I don’t think it does. It doesn’t actually change anything. It just makes us point out the irony and makes for a light-hearted, 45 second conversation.
And then the conversation turns to Beyonce’s baby or Hostess going out of business.
To me, the most ironic thing would be to see advertisements for carrots during an athletic event.
After being the only odd man out in yet another fast food burger sack lunch feast in my department at the office; and hearing my other male coworkers complain about how hard it is to keep from gaining weight after turning 30; and becoming a dad, one of the guys turned to me and insincerely asked, “How do you do it, Nick?”
I’m not the kind of person to push my lifestyle onto others- they have to truly want to know. Because just like when a person asks how you are doing, they don’t always care to actually know the answer.
But the next day, that coworker privately asked me the same thing. As a 30 year-old dad of four sons and coming to work to sit behind a desk for forty hours a week, he had gained a bit of weight and had finally gotten to the point where he wanted to reverse his damning habits.
So I told him, “If you want to do this thing for real, then you must start by getting breakfast right on a daily basis- everything else will fall into place much easier.” And at that point, I introduced him to “Nick Shell’s Swiss Oatmeal.”
In a breakfast world of sugary coffees, frosted pastries, and greasy meat-centric breakfast sandwiches served on white bread, it’s hard to find breakfast food that is both delicious and nutritious. But while on a business trip to Dallas a couple of years ago, I was introduced to Swiss oatmeal at The Corner Bakery Cafe near my hotel. Here’s my version of it:
Nick Shell’s Swiss Oatmeal
1/2 cup of quick cook, plain oats (the kind you get for $1.29 in a canister)
This perfect breakfast is packed full of fiber (oats, banana, raisins), good fats (whole milk, almonds) and natural sugar (banana, raisins, honey, whole milk). Pair it with some black coffee mixed with whole milk and a dash of honey to further keep you full until lunch time.
My coworker went during his lunch break and bought the necessary ingredients and has now converted to “Nick Shell’s Swiss Oatmeal” for breakfast. Predictably, he was skeptical of eating cold oatmeal. But once he tried it, he realized the coldness is part of the Swiss charm- plus, it’s less hassle because it doesn’t require an extra step of having to heat it up.
Switching to a healthy breakfast isn’t easy in our culture. As for me, I just had to do it “cold” turkey.
Passing the Mic:
Do you have a healthy breakfast idea to share with me?