How McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets Are Made & What EXACTLY Is In It?

Ever wonder what’s inside that very famous McDonalds Chicken Nugget? The crispy golden coating stuffed with tender, juicy and flavorful white meat fillings that’s grinded to near perfection!

Oh yes, my mouth is drooling just thinking about it. And guess what? The Chicken McNuggets® are all made from 100% white chicken meat (NOT pink slime), and mainly cuts from the breast too.

I didn’t believe it myself until I saw this video, thanks to Grant Imahara, who is well known for hosting the Discovery channel hit, Mythbusters.

Check it out and DON’T go anywhere if you also think it’s too good to be true.

As you can see from the start of the video, there is a writing that appeared at the bottom left that says “Compensation Provided By McDonald’s”. So what this means is that McDonalds may have actually paid for this video production to be shot at Tyson Foods Inc.

McDonald's Compensation Provided For This Video

Source: Youtube

This first impression wasn’t a really good one and literally put me off the moment I clicked PLAY. I mean…given Grant Imahara’s reputation in debunking myths, those words immediately told me that he was paid to do this.

And sadly, it turned out that I was right.

In fact, he was hired by McDonald’s to shoot a number of series on a variety of their menus. It was all part of a promotional campaign called: Our Food, Your Questions.

I guess after all the bad reps given by the public over the years, McDonald’s needed a way to regain people’s trust. And what better ways to do so than being more open about their food menu, which I highly support by the way.

That is, ALATATTT! (As Long As They Are Telling The Truth!)

Amy Steward - Principal Meat Scientist At Tyson Foods, Inc

Source: Youtube

So here we have Amy Steward, the principal meat scientist at Tyson Foods, Inc welcoming Grant into the facility. My immediate reaction was to check the authenticity of this lady because I wanted to make sure she was the real deal, and not just some random actress pretending to be an authority in the company.

And it turned out that she is real, according to America Meat Science Association.

That’s a very good sign and instantly gave me more confidence to keep watching as Amy takes Grant further into their meat department, which allowed us to see how their whole supply chain operation works.

Quite an eye opener to be honest to see so many chickens hanging around that process line (maybe more like a butcher line).

Chicken Process Line

Workers cutting chicken parts

Source: Youtube

I couldn’t believe the number of workers who are there to cut up chicken parts, to dissect the breasts, thighs, wings etc. I thought with today’s technology, this process would have been done by machines. (Obviously, i was wrong!)

Then Amy goes on and explains the parts that were actually going into the mcnuggets®. That was kind of satisfying, to finally know the real answer.

No Beaks…

No Feet (DAMN!)

No Kidneys

No Giblets

No Feathers, just these…

Parts that goes into mcnugget

Source: Youtube

So we’ve got the breast meat, the ribs, tenderloin and some chicken skin for “extra flavor”, according to Amy. And Grant was right too when he said that “everyone likes a bit of chicken skin” (I do!).

Then we are shown the grinding machine and the actual grinding plate that was used to keep the meaty texture. Everything looks good so far. All the process seems nice and clean…UNTIL the mixing process.

Chicken Meat Grinder

Meat Grinding Plate

Chicken Meat Mixer

Source: Youtube

Now this is the part that I was most concerned about and that is…what exactly goes into the chicken meat??? We’ve heard so many stories about all the chemicals, preservatives and addictives that McDonald’s use to keep their products consistently moist and tasty.

This was the HIDDEN area I really wanted to find out!

At least we now know that it looks nothing like the pink slime rumours we hear so often on the internet, with Grant gladly doing a comparison for us.

Pink Slime Comparison

Source: Youtube

Then out of nowhere, Amy goes on to explain EVERYTHING that goes into the mixture and I will go ahead and break it down for you one by one.

McDonald's Chicken Nugget Marinade Ingredients

Source: Youtube

Now before we get into it, I needed to confirm whether this list match the updated ingredients found from the Official McDonalds Website. And to my surprise…everything in this marinade was there, except ROSEMARY EXTRACT!

This came as a bit of a shock to me, especially given the fact that I know how healthy rosemary really is. So for them to discard this ingredient, it kind of pissed me off!

In saying that, it is NOT unusual for Maccas to change their ingredients, especially given the public backlashes throughout the years.

Here’s the most updated (as of Feb 04, 2017) Ingredient List for Chicken McNugget®:

Full McNugget Ingredients

Click picture to enlarge
So let’s break down McDonald’s official list (United States) and see what each of those natural and “Not So Natural” ingredients are all about. Afterall, we want to know what we are feeding our kids, right?

White Boneless Chicken

We already know which parts of the chicken McDonald’s use as the meat.

  1. Breast Meat
  2. Rib Meat
  3. Tenderloin
  4. Some skin for extra flavor

I must admit these are some very fine cuts and was actually surprised that they didn’t add any other parts such as the chicken thigh (my favourite part by the way).


I wonder what kind of water is used in McNuggets?

Come on…I don’t really need to explain this, do I?

All I can say is that I’m fairly confident McDonald’s will NOT use natural spring water for their nuggets. Try and prove me wrong…I dare you!

Food Starch Modified

Now this is where things gets interesting. What is food starch? And why modify it?

Food starch can be a very general term and may come from ingredients such as:

  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • Tapioca
  • Beans
  • Lentils

Since McDonald’s is a business, a very successful INTERNATIONAL corporation that is, so it is only logical that they are going to use the cheapest food starch available to offset their costs. We are living in a commercial world after all.

With that being said, I still wanted to find out what food starch modified really means.

Okay, let’s put it this way, we’ve ALL used food starch in our cooking before. We might not know it, but it comes naturally in our cooking ingredients that ultimately leaks into our food. There’s really nothing wrong with it, unless you’re on a gluten free diet of course (MOST starchy foods contains gluten!)

However, the modified version is very different.  According to Love To Know, modified food starch is a chemically altered food ingredient made from starch.

The way it is modified depends on the source of the starch, and the methods to do so may include one or more of the following:

As you can see, it is a rather grey area and we only know that this ingredient is added into the chicken McNuggets® to add moisture. Anything else seems irrelevant to the public.

Perhaps summed it best:

Modified food starch seems to be an all-encompassing term which allows food manufacturers free reign over what they do to their products

Enough said…


Again, waste of time explaining this.

If you don’t know what salt is then please…GO EAT BABY FOOD!

But I’ll bet ya a million dollars it’s NOT pink himalayan salt!



As we can see, the seasoning consist of the following:

Autolyzed Yeast Extract – A concentration of yeast cells that’s allowed to die or break up so that the enzymes will break their proteins into simpler compounds, releasing amino acids, salts and carbohydrates.

In cooking definition, it’s basically a less expensive substitute for MSG. Yes, it’s unfortunately true and because it is a natural compound, so MSG doesn’t have to be listed separately in the ingredients for McDonald’s nuggets.

Salt – Seriously, you want me to spoon feed you this time?

Wheat Starch – Nice and clear finally! A starch that’s been extracted from wheat. Whether it’s healthy or not, i’ll let you decide, but may be best to avoid if you are sensitive to gluten.

Natural Flavoring (Botanical Source) – Another very BLURRED area that we will never be able to find out. I honestly thought about trying to call McDonald’s head office to see what exactly this “Natural Flavor” is. But I know they are just gonna tell me it’s all part of their secret ingredients, so why bother?

At least they listed it as coming from “Botanical Source” and what this means is that the flavors may come from certain plants that’s been grounded or extracted. Good news for vegans, vegetarians or anyone who wants to stay away from animal products as much as possible because there are natural flavors that do come from hidden animal sources.

But then…if you’re vegan, why would you even eat chicken nuggets LOL!

Safflower Oil – A high smoke point oil extracted from the seeds of the safflower plant. It is flavorless and odourless so it’s really quite interesting why McDonald’s listed this ingredient as part of their seasoning. Perhaps it helps to bond all the seasonings together?

But then if you look back at the video footage, it mentioned safflower oil as an ingredient used to preserve freshness? Now I couldn’t find any information in regards to safflower oil having any kind of preservative properties when used in food. So it’s a little confusing…

All I know is that safflower oil has similar health properties as sunflower oil, but one can only guess what happens when it is mixed with all the other “stuff”.

At least we know that this oil is suitable for high heat cooking and since McNuggets are deep fried, so it makes sense to use it as one of its binding agent.

Dextrose – This is basically sugar or glucose made from corn. Learn more.

Citric Acid – According to Wikipedia, citric acid is a weak organic tricarboxylic acid that occurs naturally in citrus fruit, with a chemical formula of C6H8O7 (whatever that means).

It is a very common food addictive found in many processed foods. Just take a look at all the food product labels on the shelves of your local supermarket. Pay attention and they are everywhere. It’s most often used to add extra flavors or act as a preserving agent.

Now most people might think that citric acids ONLY comes from citrus fruits, such as lemons or pineapples. Now if that is the case, then I’m perfectly okay with it.

Unfortunately, I just read an article about an industrial way of producing citric acid using BLACK MOLD! It is a far more inexpensive way of producing a similar compound. Kinda scary to be honest, but definitely a good info to know.

Now I’m not saying McDonald’s use this type of citric acid in their McNuggets. At the moment, there’s just no way for us “general public” to find out.

Sodium phosphate

Sodium Phosphate

Okay i’m going to try and keep things simple with this one. Sodium phosphate is a combination of natural elements and minerals. In other words, this is NOT an artificial ingredient (Woohoo!) and is utilized by the human body in many ways.

The most common purpose of sodium phosphate is to act as an emulsifier, which prevents oil from separating with other mixtures. Pretty much explains why this ingredient is added to the McNuggets for added moisture.

Shaping, Breading & Batter

Here we see how the meat mixtures go through a machine to form our all too familiar “chicken nugget shapes” from start to finish. A truly amazing process showcasing the technology behind McDonald’s mass production from the Tyson Food plant .

Meat mixture shaped into nuggets

Source: Youtube

Shaped nuggets traveling on the conveyor

Just look how happy Grant is. He’s like a kid in the candy store!

And guess what? According to a video released by McDonald’s Canada, there are actually 4 different McNugget shapes:

  1. Ball
  2. Bell
  3. Boot
  4. Bow Tie

Now this explains why they seem to come in all different shapes and sizes. I guess they are just trying to mimic my home cooking style. No really, I can never make these little bastards look the same!

My son actually calls mine creations, the dinosaur nuggets! Very sad, but I’ll leave that story for another day.

Breading & Batter Coating

Here we see the shaped nuggets going through the breading process which Amy said consists of some seasoning such as white pepper powder, celery etc (Natural Flavors???). We’ll take a closer look at those ingredients in a second.

Then the breaded McNuggets goes through another layer of tempura batter coating which according to the official USA ingredient list, contains the following:

Sorry, I’ve only placed links for each of those ingredients above so that you can read more about them at your own pace. This article has gone WAY longer than what I originally anticipated and quite frankly, my wrist and fingers are starting to get really sore from all the typing!

So please excuse my laziness at this point in time…

Par Frying

This is where the mcnuggets are par cooked (or fried) to stabilize the shape, breading and batter. According to Amy, this is only a partial cooking process and the chicken inside is still RAW.

After this half cooked procedure is done, they will be frozen immediate to lock in all the juice and flavors. They will then be bagged and packaged into boxes before being distributed to all the McDonald’s branches in the country.

Once it arrives into each individual Maccas restaurants, the allocated staffs (yes, the 15,16 year old part timers) will fry them again (fully cooked this time) before they are served to the customers.

Quality Assurance & Taste Tester

Imagine if your job is the eat chicken mcnuggets every single hour of your long working days. Well this is exactly what this lady does, yes…It’s her FULL TIME job!

Sounds like a dream job really, unless you are a totally health conscious individual who absolutely grosses out the moment you hear about lawfully chemical altered food. In this case, you better learn how to cook because these types of foods are everywhere!

Health aside, I think it is a really cool job, but in saying that…doubt I will even last 6 month because I love varieties too much to eat the same things over and over and over…you get the point.

Final Words

The whole point of me putting together this post is to alert people about McDonald’s Food, in particular the Chicken McNuggets. While Maccas has done an incredible job in being more open about their menus.

There are still many “grey” areas which they haven’t covered!

At the end of the day, we, as their customers (loyal ones too), deserves to know what we are really putting into our mouth, our body. And more importantly, what we are really feeding our children each time we pay a visit to their Restaurant???

Mr McDonald’s, It’s really that simple!

We’ve now seen how McNuggets are made from start to finish and you have generously taken us on a tour inside your food factory, showing us your operation and machinery inside the facility.

So all we need now is a break down of your ingredients. Just openly explain them one by one, instead of throwing us with a bunch of scientific terms or micro-ingredients that we don’t have a clue about….unless we continuously bother google.

For cry out loud, WE are NORMAL people!

Ordinary people at best, NOT bloody food scientists!