Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles If you grew up in the United States in the last 70 years chances are you've had a chicken nugget. Whether you're nuggets came in a McDonald's box or from the freezer aisle, chicken nuggets have long been a staple for American families. But have you ever eaten one cooked from scratch, at home? We did an experiment inspired by celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver. If people saw how chicken nuggets were made, would they still want to \eat them? Do you know what's in a chicken nugget? No. Are you worried about what's in a chicken nugget? Yes, I am sometimes. No I don't, but I highly doubt it's top chicken. Pink slime. No that's why I don't eat very often because, it's kind o... I think it's like mystery meat. I know it's like, just a chicken cut up and different, like maybe bones are in there. We acknowledge the makeup of chicken nuggets is... questionable. The treats history has been marred by bad press. Yet Americans ate 2.3 billion servings of them in restaurants last year. However, demand for chicken nuggets at fast food outlets and restaurants has stagnated. Experts say that's because the chicken nugget isn't a huge profit driver and restaurants aren't likely to innovate around them. Restaurants only have so much room on their menu, and as a low cost item nuggets aren't a big moneymaker. Customers expect to be able to buy large quantities of nuggets at super low prices. And the future doesn't look better for chicken nuggets growth. Their menu penetration is expected to drop by 5.4 percent in the next four years. Over the past 10 years, nuggets have dropped off the kids menu by 10 percent while chicken tenders have increased by 25 percent. So why is demand for nuggets flatlining? First we have to understand what made them so popular in the first place. Today, we can't help but associate chicken nuggets with McDonald's— famous for selling large McNugget portions at low prices. Credit for inventing chicken nuggets often goes to the Golden Arches. But it turns out you have a scientist to thank for your chicken nugget creations. McDonald's introduced chicken nuggets in 1983, years after a researcher had laid the groundwork for them. In the 1950s, a professor at Cornell University invented a variety of processed chicken products, including chicken hotdogs and chicken nuggets, to convince Americans to eat more chicken. His work was for scientific research not commercial products. And he didn't expect chicken nuggets to take off. When the chicken nugget came out in the 1950s, they weren't too popular he said. After World War II, processed foods were seen as safer and more reliable food processing methods were developed during the wars to make sure soldiers on the frontlines were fed. After the war, companies had to find another market for their new technology. But attitude toward food processing has changed dramatically in the past 30-40 years maybe. When it was first introduced, people saw it as being sanitary because human hands weren't you know touching the food. They saw it as efficient because you could get food directly from the field into a can or frozen. And that was supposedly going to lock in the flavor. In 1983, after the government recommended people eat less red meat, McDonald's introduced the battered and fried chicken nugget. Its McNugget Mania ad campaign cast the nugget as a cheap delicious snack to share. [Ad] You can't resist them. Moms love them. Kids crunch them. Dads brings them home for the family. Chicken nuggets became popular because they were inexpensive, uniform and easy to eat. Regardless of whether your nugget comes from the drive-in or the frozen section, You usually know what to expect. People love to eat food with their hands. A trend of Albala calls nuggetization. Nuggetization also hides the origin of the food. When you eat a chicken nugget, you really don't know what it is. The fact that nuggets don't look like an animal makes them more popular. Most people don't want to be reminded that their food used to moo or cluck. It's not for ethical reasons or because people are eating less meat, we're simply just squeamish. McDonald's released its nuggets with three signature sauces: barbecue, sweet sour, and hot mustard. The product development director thought a variety of different flavors would make the McNuggets more appealing to customers. They were right. Customers love nuggetized, easily dippable foods because sauce adds another layer of customization to your order. We've been eating chicken nuggets for years but three main factors are working against them. Health concerns, bad press, and new competition. Consumer attitudes about health are changing. Processed foods are falling out of favor as consumers look for more natural alternatives. Very broadly across all consumers is a what we call the pursuit of purity in our food, which is to say, we're looking for food that's real, food that's authentic, food that's minimally processed. In 2010, reports of chicken nuggets made from pink goop swept to the Internet. A photo rumored to have been taken inside a plant making food for McDonald's surfaced, and people said it showed mechanically separated chicken, a product made by forcing bones with edible tissue attached through a sieve. Edible tissue includes whatever's left on the bone, including blood vessels, cartilage, and skin. McDonald said the photo doesn't show how it makes nuggets. Due to changing consumer preferences. It switched to using 100 percent white meat in nuggets in 2003. While McDonald's promises to use 100 percent white meat. It doesn't state what percentage of the nugget is meat. In response to the pink goop photo McDonald's released a video from the McNuggets supplier in Canada. The video shows employees making a paste from chicken breast and skin that will become nuggets. McDonald's didn't respond to requests to comment for this video, but their earnings call show consumers like the switch to white meat. There isn't much regulation about what can and cannot be in a nugget. Go to any frozen food aisle and you'll find gluten free chicken nuggets, breast meat chicken nuggets, and even veggie nuggets. Here's how the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines nuggets: Nuggets are irregularly shaped, usually bite sized meat and or poultry products, which are usually breaded and deep fat fried and intended to be used as finger foods. There are three types: solid meat nuggets, ground meat nuggets, and nuggets meat from ground meat with additives. The labeling rules are different for all three but one rule is constant. Any breaded nugget products can be no more than 30 percent breading. Nuggets made from solid pieces of meat can be labeled simply as nuggets. The process to make nuggets that are ground meat, like what we made earlier, must be clear on the packaging. For instance, chicken nugget chopped and formed. Nuggets made from ground meat with additives like binders or water can be used to describe a product but needs more detail. The USDA says breaded nuggets shaped chicken patties is proper labeling. The USDA labeling guidelines don't specify just how much meat a nugget must contain. In 2013, researchers from the University of Mississippi studied the composition of two nuggets and found that the nuggets contained more fat than meat. The researchers got the nuggets from two national food chains but didn't identify which. It's also worth noting that two nuggets is a very small sample size. The bad press for nuggets didn't end with this study or with reports of pink goo. A federal judge called McNuggets a McFrankenstein creation in 2003 after a group of teens claimed McDonald's food was making them obese. Earlier this year, some of the country's biggest producers recalled over 120,000 pounds of chicken nuggets. Consumers found bits of plastic or wood in the nuggets or notice that they were labeled incorrectly. And finally, there is another chicken product kids love: chicken strips. While data found that chicken nuggets servings in restaurants were slumping slightly, servings of chicken strips were actually on the rise in 2018 when compared to 2017. Researchers say consumers aren't swapping nuggets for strips but that the categories appeal to different groups. Families with young children are more likely to purchase nuggets, while adults or families with teens buy more strips. Strips are seen as an upgraded or more wholesome version of chicken nuggets. There's nothing new or innovative about a chicken strip it's been around for a long time. But anytime you take something that the American consumer already loves and you innovate around it or you elevate the form in some way, it creates opportunities for growth. So we've seen a lot of people doing this. Everybody from, you know, the world's largest restaurant chain, McDonald's has a premium chicken strip offering now, to regional chains that are springing up like Raising Cane's or Zaxby's. Tempting consumers to buy more premium product, like a strip, means a higher margin for restaurants. Chicken nuggets sort of have their home in fast food. And as parents are more educated about, you know better quality proteins and they're trading to more fast casual restaurant. I think you're seeing more of a tendency for people to move to chicken strips chicken tenders, which is something that kids really like. And honestly, you know, people of all generations like chicken strips. A low birth rate could also have something to do with nuggets' stagnation. In 2017, the U.S. birthrate hit a 30 year low. Americans aren't having enough babies to replace the population and population growth increasingly relies on immigration. Data shows that chicken strips show up on restaurant menus more often than chicken nuggets do, with a higher menu penetration of 14.2 percent. However, over time, chicken strip menu penetration has also declined and at a faster rate than nuggets. Which begs the question: are consumers over them both? Are chicken strips really a threat to chicken nuggets place at the top of the processed meat food chain? Even though strips are gaining traction, there's no reason nuggets and strips can't thrive together. At restaurants, Americans still eat a whopping 2.3 billion nuggets last year, compared to 1.5 billion strips. So don't worry nugget lovers, there will still be nuggets to dip.