Since the launch of Impossible Foods' chicken nuggets in September 2021, I've eaten a lot of plant-based chicken nuggets, expecting to find a wide, wonderful category. Most of them turned out to taste like pablum or rubber. Impossible's nuggets were so much better than the competition that I consider this finger food one of the most important examples of plant-based meat replacement.
The latest version of the product is the awkwardly named Impossible Chicken Nuggets Made From Plants: Wild Nuggies. Basically it's the same excellent nugget that replaces the most widely abused animal in all of factory food, but now it comes in the shape of endangered black rhinos, Galapagos tortoises, polar bears and whales to inspire kids and parents to talk about the plight of those creatures in the anthropocene. (Though that seems like a stretch in a world where kids dine in front of a screen and in between a pair of earbuds.) Impossible claims to use 44% less water and 49% less land in production of these than is used in the production of nuggets made from birds.
I prefer to put the nuggets at the center of an adult meal. I first cooked the original Impossible nuggets on a propane grill, which is definitely off-label. Concerns about charred breading or dried-out nuggets evaporated as some sizzled directly on the main grill bars, some on foil and some on the upper grill tray. Nuggets from all three cooking locations turned out good enough for me to believe Impossible's claim that seven out of 10 people prefer them over chicken in blind taste tests.
Compared with megabrand Tyson chicken nuggets, Impossible's largely soy- and wheat-based original nuggets are nutritionally superior except that they're lower in protein. The new kids' Nuggies are formulated a bit differently to accommodate their shape and breading but end up with even less fat and sodium per gram. Price will vary widely by store, but expect a noticeable premium compared with nuggets made from chickens in the select outlets of major grocery stores where the new Nuggies will appear. Such is still typical of all plant-based meats.
Impossible 'chicken' nuggets vs. Tyson chicken nuggets
|(Adjusted to a 95g serving of each product)||Impossible||Tyson|
The environmental life cycle analysis of any food is hard to directly verify, but Impossible claims its plant-based nuggets require about half the land area and water required to make chicken nuggets while contributing a third less greenhouse gases.
Impossible's new Wild Nuggies may be shaped for kids but the sector isn't child's play: Frozen chicken nuggets did about $1.1 billion in US sales last year, up 18% over the year before, according to Nielsen IQ market research. Sometime around 2010 chicken surpassed beef as America's favorite animal meat. And according to a voice as august as the Wall Street Journal, we're in a golden era of nuggets. Little kids like them, of course, but for today's young adults they're a nostalgia food.
Distribution is a key hurdle and plant-based meats are still enjoying the small base and high delta growth of a new sector. They'll soon have to focus on cost, health and environmental bona fides, however, to move beyond the most amenable shoppers to appeal to a larger swath of meat eaters. Impossible's Nuggies seem poised to work the kids' lane of that road, building a lifelong preference from the childhood plate.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.