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What's really in a McDonald's Chicken McNugget? Former Mythbuster finds out

Pink slime? Poultry beaks and feet? Former "MythBusters" host Grant Imahara visits Tyson food-processing plant to investigate what McDonald's Chicken McNuggets are actually made from.

Former "MythBusters" host Grant Imahara find out McDonald's secrets about its Chicken McNuggets.
Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Is there pink slime in Chicken McNuggets? Does McDonald's use the whole chicken, the beak, the claws, the feet and everything else? Thanks to a new ad campaign, McDonald's is giving the public answers about its most popular menu item -- Chicken McNuggets.

The fast food company hired former to tackle the difficult questions consumers might have about Chicken McNuggets, as part of its new campaign called "Our Food. Your Questions."

The promotional campaign aims to reveal the truth to the public about how McDonald's food is processed. Imahara has already gone behind the scenes at a food-processing plant to get the facts on whether McDonald's uses pink slime in its burgers or yoga mats in its McRib sandwiches.

This time around, Imahara visited the Tyson Foods processing plant in Tennessee -- one of the suppliers to McDonalds -- to find out once and for all what Chicken McNuggets are made of.

Imahara met up with Amy Steward, principal meat scientist at Tyson Foods, who gives him a tour of the step-by-step process involved in making McNuggets.

Imahara shows Steward a picture found on the Web of the rumored pink slime that's used to make McDonald's McNuggets. "If you do a search on the Internet for Chicken McNuggets, this pops up," Imahara said in the video as he showed Steward the image. "They say that this is pink slime. So if you grind up parts of chicken that you use does it look like this?"


"What is this?" Imahara asks when showing off a photo of pink slime.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

Steward replied," I don't know where that picture came from, but that's not used in Chicken McNuggets."

The guided tour takes Imahara around the food plant, which includes a look at an assembly line of employees in hairnets, face masks, white lab coats and gloves cutting up whole chickens.

"This blows my mind," Imahara said in the video. "There are multiple lines of people making cuts on the chicken, just like you would at home or like a butcher would."

Imahara is shown a whole chicken cut up into sections to see which parts go into the making of Chicken McNuggets. According to Steward, the dark meat from the drumsticks and the thighs does not go into the McNuggets. However, the breast and rib meat, as well as the chicken tenderloin, are used to make McNuggets. Before McNuggets are made, the entire chicken skin is removed initially, and a small portion is added back "for flavor."

"This is the only part of the chicken that goes into the Chicken McNuggets? Nothing else?" Imahara asked incredulously in the video. "No beaks? No feet?" Steward laughs and assures Grant that there are no beaks or feet in McNuggets.

Next up is the grinding operation at Tyson where the chicken is ground up before being molded into McNuggets. The ground chicken is plopped onto a conveyor belt in a way that even the most die-hard meat lover might have difficultly witnessing.

"We grind it to give it to give you that real meaty texture that you expect in Chicken McNuggets," Steward tells Imahara in the video.


This is what ground-up chicken looks like.

Video screenshot by Bonnie Burton/CNET

"I can't stop watching it, it's like a lava lamp," Imahara said when he comes face to face with the mixing machine at the plant. The mixing machine combines the ground chicken meat with various ingredients in a marinade which includes water, sodium phosphates, food starch, salt, wheat starch, dextrose, citric acid, autolyzed yeast extract, natural flavoring, rosemary extract and safflower oil.

After that, the chicken mixture is shaped into the "four famous Chicken McNugget shapes -- bell, boot, ball and bone," according to The shapes are coated in a tempura batter, partially fried and flash-frozen to preserve flavor until they are fully fried again in the restaurant itself.

Imahara meets up with Gena Bumgarner, a National Account Executive at Tyson Foods in the plant's kitchen where they test the McNuggets for quality. They evaluate the McNuggets quality based on appearance such as its golden brown color, ridges and peaks, slightly firm texture but still remains juicy. The test also determines taste of chicken, slight pepper and "celery notes."

"That's the experience I remember. It reminds me of my childhood," Imahara says when tasting the fully-cooked Chicken McNugget.

These behind-the-scenes videos that explore how McDonald's processes meat to make its famous sandwiches is an interesting way to attract customers -- though not everyone finds the videos entertaining. Last month, Lisa Suhay, a correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and a parent of a 10-year-old "MythBusters" fan named Quin, wrote that the McDonald's ad campaign featuring Imahara might get an adverse reaction from its young consumers.

When hearing about the new video ad campaign during a report of NPR, Suhay wrote that her son asked, "'What's 'pink slime' and why the heck is Grant from MythBusters saying it's not in chicken nuggets,'" Quin asked. "'Telling me it's not in there just makes me think it is. Also he's talking about eyeballs and lips and stuff not in the food. I am never eating there. Ever.'"

Regardless of how you feel about McDonald's latest "myth-busting" ad campaign, the fast food giant has asked for your toughest questions and criticisms and seems to be listening to your tweets, so be sure to send McDonald's all your probing questions.