Category Archives: chicken

Review: McDonald’s wings aren’t so mighty

mighty-wingsOne of the high points for me, if I can call it that, of heading down to the U.S. fairly frequently is getting to try new fast-food concoctions, which are inevitably released there before being exported internationally, if at all. This time around: McDonald’s Mighty Wings.

Chicken wings are an odd duck, so to speak, for McDonald’s. Sure, the chain has been a pioneer among burger peddlers in chicken, first with sandwiches and then with nuggets. But wings almost seems like a step too far, since they are a relatively difficult thing to get right. It’s easy to make them too dry, too bland, too small, too big or too greasy. It was accordingly with a good deal of trepidation that I tried them on a recent trip to New York.

The first off-putting thing: the portion sizes. Mighty Wings come in packs of three, five or ten, which is odd. Like McNuggets, a grouping of six just seems more natural - or 10, which is how they come in most bars. Yet 10 wings costs almost $10 and that seems like a bit of an obscene price to pay for anything at McDonald’s. At the other end, I can’t figure who might want just three wings. It reminds of that scene in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, where Chris Rock goes into a restaurant and tries to order just one rib. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 8, 2013 in chicken, food, mcdonald's


Deflating the myths of McNuggets

The media doesn’t often challenge conventional wisdom on certain issues, especially when it comes to food, so when it does happen it’s all the more noteworthy. Such is the case with a recent article in the Montreal Gazette on McDonald’s McNuggets. The story takes a look at what McNuggets are really made of, and I must give the writer - Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s office for science and society - kudos for taking down some myths that continue to be perpetuated.

One of the big assumptions laid low in the article is one put forward by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, about how McNuggets are actually 56 per cent corn. He came to his calculation by asserting that because the chickens from which nuggets are made are fed primarily corn, they of course must be corn. But, as the story states, that’s a preposterous idea because we really aren’t what we eat: “Using this logic, we could all be described as being made of plants, since every bit of our flesh can be traced back to some plant product.”

Another issue Schwarcz tackles is the suggestion by Joseph Mercola, a doctor who’s pretty popular on the web, that McNuggets contain a chemical called dimethyl polysiloxane, which is also a major ingredient in Silly Putty. The implication by association is, of course, that you wouldn’t want to eat Silly Putty.

But, as Schwarcz points out, dimethyl polysiloxane is an approved additive for frying oils. All chemicals become toxic at a certain level and with this particular one, you’d need to eat about 10,000 chicken McNuggets in one sitting to encounter problems. Besides that, the base argument is wrong: “Do we eschew salt because it is used to de-ice streets, or water because it is an essential ingredient of cement?”

It’s a great article that you should check out. Schwarcz also has some good points on whether we should eat anything containing chemicals we can’t pronounce.

And oh yes, if you’re wondering: chicken nuggets are actually made from chicken. And no, they’re generally not good for you, mostly because they contain a lot of fat and salt.

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Posted by on January 21, 2011 in chicken, food, mcdonald's


Children know food better than adults

I was hoping to have a whole week of military-themed posts but then something so big, so monumental happened that I just didn’t have any choice but to change tracks today: the KFC Double Down is finally coming to Canada!

Oh yes, it’s true: the 540-calorie monstrosity of a sandwich, with chicken breasts replacing the bun, hits Canadian KFCs on Oct. 18, supposedly for a “limited time” until Nov. 14. I wouldn’t bet on it being limited - I suspect it’ll be as popular here as it has been in the United States, which means it is destined to become a permanent fixture on KFC’s Canadian menu.

Of course, with the announcement came the inevitable wave of food fascists, decrying the sandwich for… well… for being what it is: a pretty serious piece of junk food, what with all the calories, fat and sodium it packs. I’m sure somebody somewhere is whining about how this is making our kids obese, et cetera.

My response to this sort of criticism is always pretty hardline: I like the fact that we live in a country where we’re lucky enough to eat whatever we want, no matter how bad it is for us. And if someone is worried about their children (or themselves) getting fat or developing health problems, maybe they just shouldn’t eat at KFC, or perhaps they should exercise a little more. But don’t rain on anyone else’s Colonel parade.

On a related note, there’s been a photo/blog post floating around the web lately that has really ticked me off. Some writer named Michael Kindt posted this rather nasty-looking picture on his blog the other day of a pink “meat” paste coming out of some sort of contraption. He said it was what “all fast-food chicken is made from - things like chicken nuggets and patties. Also, the processed frozen chicken in the stores is made from it.” His post spread like wildfire, with blogs and media playing it up. I noticed it when a few co-workers looked at the post and made remarks like, “I’m never eating chicken nuggets again!”

The only problem: he’s wrong, wrong, wrong. What the picture shows is “mechanically separated meat,” which is all the icky bits of an animal ground up that, yes, does look gross. But, in the first instance, it’s very rarely used, at least in North America. Mechanically separated beef has been illegal to use since 2004, when it was found that including the central nervous system of cows in the meat could help spread Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow disease). Mechanically separated poultry is perfectly safe, but it must be labelled as such. Food makers, knowing that the public has access to such photos, have largely opted not to use such poultry for fear of the inevitable backlash, such as the false one that’s going around now.

Even celebrity chef (and food snob) Jamie Oliver knows this. As he says in the video below, “Thankfully, chicken nuggets in this country are not made this way.” In the video, which you should definitely watch, Oliver tries to gross out some American kids by showing them how mechanically separated chicken nuggets are made. His attempt to “blow their minds,” however, backfires when the kids all decide they want to eat the nuggets anyway:

I found the video really illuminating for a couple of reasons. Mainly, it’s a real showcase of food snobbery (Oliver’s). Yes, it’s true that the pink paste concoction is disgusting to look at, and perhaps to think about - but so what? If it’s not harmful to eat, isn’t it actually a more efficient use of the chicken? Just because we’ve been conditioned to accept only certain parts of the chicken as edible, that doesn’t mean the rest of it isn’t. As we’ve done for millenia, if you’re going to kill an animal in the first place, shouldn’t you use as much of it as possible and not throw away parts needlessly?

That’s what amazed me about the children. When Oliver asked them why they still wanted to eat the nuggets, they said, “Because we’re hungry.” There’s a saying that truth often comes from the mouths of babes, and here’s a perfect case. The children, who haven’t necessarily been conditioned yet to reject food because of how it looks before it’s properly presented, recognize that simple truth. Score one for children, and subtract another one from the food fascists.

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Posted by on October 8, 2010 in chicken, food, kfc


Fat chickens, war or environmental ruin?

The National Post kicked off a series on the environment yesterday with a great story (and when I say “great,” it’s because I totally agree with it) on food technology. The story looks at various aspects of reducing waste and environmental degradation through food production methods, whether it’s bio-engineered crops or land-based fish farms.

The story, which runs in what is generally considered a right-wing newspaper (although it never felt like that when I worked there), looks at the funny way in which food has become a pet cause for the left. In summary: “While Western environmentalists lionize unrefined, organic farms, one of the best ways to protect our environment is by spreading 21st century farming technology and corporate agricultural products.” To put it another way - the left’s position has usually gone something like: organic food = good, genetically modified food = bad.

(For the record, I consider myself a centrist - right on some issues, left on others. When it comes to food, I’m definitely a big proponent of more technology, not less. I’m also an animal lover, but I recognize our place atop the food chain.)

One of the interviewees is Patrick Moore, the former Canadian president of lefty poster people Greenpeace and now chairman of a communications company called Greenspirit Strategies. Moore takes the rather surprising view that technology, especially when applied to food, is a key tool in preserving the environment. “Intensive agricultural production is the key,” he says. “It’s simple arithmetic: the more food you grow per acre, the less natural world you have to clear to do it.”

Such a view creates a perplexing dilemma for the left. On the one hand, genetic engineering - the kind that makes chickens so fat that they can’t even stand up - is bad because it’s cruel to animals. On the other hand, it’s good because it uses less land to produce food and creates less polluting waste. So what’s it going to be: animal cruelty or environmental destruction?

If you think that’s a tough choice, wait till the effects of food shortages sharpen. One aspect the National Post story doesn’t touch on, which I get into in my book, is how a lack of food can lead people into war and terrorism. The world’s population is growing, and so is the lack of food. So what should we do when faced with the choices of war and terrorism or environmental degradation?

Those fat, misshapen chickens don’t look so bad now, do they?


Posted by on December 8, 2009 in chicken, food, GMO, war


KFC’s grilled chicken most memorable new product of 2009

Just how ingrained is fast food in our brains? Extremely, according to a New York Times article. KFC’s Kentucky Grilled Chicken menu item was the most memorable new product of 2009, according to the eighth annual study conducted by Schneider Associates, IRI and Sentient Decision Science, which was released the other day.

Moreover, five of the top 11 products (there was a tie for 10th place) were fast-food items. They were McDonald’s McCafe coffees (#2), Quizno’s Torpedo sandwich (#6), McD’s again with the Angus Burger (#7) and Taco Bell’s Volcano Nachos (#8). A couple of non-fast-food items made the list too, including the Blackberry Storm and the Beatles Rock Band video game.

The story indicates that the poor economy was to blame for the lack of memorable new products in 2009, and from my experience that’s probably right. Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, which I’ll be covering. I’m expecting it to be a pretty exciting one after last year’s, which was pretty morose because of the economy.

Last year, the big electronics companies held back on introducing fancy new technologies because they knew no one would have the money to buy them. Now, with things looking up, I suspect they’re going to let the new stuff rip.

But the survey, which may or not be based on dubious methodology (read the NYT article), nevertheless highlights more than just economic problems. It also shows how effective fast-food advertising is, which means the companies involved put a lot of effort and resources into making people aware of their new products. Food is, after all, the biggest industry there is (more than $4 trillion in annual global revenue) and it is fiercely competitive. It’s no wonder some of the products are memorable.

In the end, it’s probably a good thing that KFC’s grilled chicken - which is considerably healthier than just about anything else on its menu - was the most memorably new product of 2009, and not the Double Down.

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Posted by on November 27, 2009 in CES, chicken, food, kfc, mcdonald's


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