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12 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About McDonald’s Nuggets

They were invented because Americans were scared of red meat

In the ’50s and ’60s, more Americans than ever were suffering from heart attacks—and doctors were finally getting a clue that saturated fats and red meat might be a factor. For a burger joint like McDonald’s, that meant sales were dropping. To bring back consumers, the fast food chain started working on chicken items to round out its beef-forward menu, according to Time. The result: chicken nuggets.


They were created by a chef who worked for the queen
Who better to formulate a recipe for the world’s biggest fast food chain than someone with royal experience? To help the McDonald’s reputation-changing menu change, the company called on Rene Arend, a Luxembourg-born chef whose resume included making dinner for Queen Elizabeth II and the king of Belgium. Find out what the first-ever McDonald’s menu looked like.

They weren’t the first chicken dish
Even a chef with those credentials couldn’t be expected to create the perfect recipe on his first shot. His first idea was a deep-fried chicken pot pie, but it failed in testing. The team also tried fried chicken but couldn’t drum up excitement with restaurants like KFC dominating the market.

They weren’t the first nugget, either
McDonald’s almost gave up on the chicken idea entirely and pulled out a completely different item: onion nuggets. Those hit the market in the 1970s and actually inspired the Chicken McNugget, which debuted in the early ’80s. The onion nuggets were pulled off the menu after their meaty cousin stole the show. Check out these 11 other failed McDonald’s items you won’t believe existed.

The McRib was created because there wasn’t enough chicken for McNuggets
In a 2009 interview, Arend said that when McDonald’s first introduced the nuggets, they were such hot sellers that every franchise wanted to get their hands on them. At that point, McDonald’s couldn’t keep up with the demand, so the chef claims he created the McRib so other franchises would still have a new menu item—without requiring the low-supply chicken.

Tyson helped keep up with demands
With the nuggets’ popularity rising, McDonald’s initially had a hard time keeping up with the high demand. To keep restaurants from running out, the fast food chain teamed up with Tyson Foods for its poultry supply. This is why McDonald’s chicken nuggets come in one of four shapes.

They don’t contain “pink slime”
A viral video of “pink slime” that supposedly came from McDonald’s gave McNuggets a bad name, but the image wasn’t actually from the chain, who insists they’ve never used it. The gross-looking “pink slime” is known as lean, finely textured beef in the meat industry, and plenty of suppliers use it. The goo looks gross and is treated with ammonia hydroxide, but it’s entirely safe to eat. Regardless, McDonald’s stopped using ammonia in its products (McNuggets included) in 2012, after a push from the public.

Those iconic shapes have names
You’ve probably noticed that chicken nuggets always come in the same four shapes, but did you know each one has a name? The “ball” is round, the “bone” looks like a rounded rectangle, the “boot” has an edge jutting out, and the “bell” is diamond-like. No matter what you call it, a McNugget by any other name would taste just as good. These are the McDonald’s secret menu items you need to order.

There are four shapes for a reason
Albeit maybe not the most scientific reason. According to the McDonald’s Canada website, “The four shapes we make Chicken McNuggets in was the perfect equilibrium of dipability and fun. Three would have been too few. Five would’ve been, like, wacky.” Hard to argue with that logic. Here are 17 more secrets McDonald’s employees won’t tell you.

They’re the highest-calorie item on the menu
If you get the 40-pack, that is. The pile of nuggets contains 1,770 calories—though considering the amount of food you’re getting, that’s not too far off from eating just one 1,130-calorie Double Bacon Smokehouse Burger. You’re probably better off sticking with six McNuggets. Check out these 75 mind-blowing facts about McDonald’s.

Its sauces have changed over time
Right now, you can dip your nuggets into signature sauce, spicy buffalo, creamy ranch, habanero ranch, honey mustard, honey, sweet ‘n’ sour, or tangy barbecue. But back in the day, you might have enjoyed pairing yours with discontinued options like Szechuan sauce, zesty Italian, green chili salsa, or hot mustard.

They contain 30 ingredients
There’s chicken of course, but their other ingredients include vegetable oil, flour, vegetable starch, and leavening agents. Don’t miss these 14 things you never knew about the Big Mac.
. (Marissa Laliberte)


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12 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About McDonald’s Nuggets

Marissa Laliberte

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