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

Updated: May 08, 2024

This is the true story of how McDonald's chicken nuggets came to be.


In 1977, the U.S. Senate published a list of “dietary goals” to help combat a major uptick in cardiovascular disease. It encouraged people to cut back on cholesterol and saturated fat—or in other words, eat less red meat. This sent McDonald’s on a quest to develop a poultry item that would be as successful as its famous hamburgers: the Chicken McNugget.

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Pics of the Launching of the MacDonalds Fried Chicken Nuggets.Nick Rodd, Souathan Finshaw, Gerry Grace.
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They were created by a chef who worked for the queen

In the late ’70s, McDonald’s enlisted the help of Chef Rene Arend, who had once cooked dinner for the Queen of England. He had been testing different chicken items for a while, including a deep-fried chicken potpie. Arend wanted to make a product that wasn’t close to Kentucky Fried Chicken, the top fast-food chicken brand at the time.

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Courtesy McDonalds

The original nugget wasn’t meant to be chicken

With KFC as his main competitor, McDonald’s owner Ray Kroc asked Arend to create a bite-sized onion ring, or an onion nugget, as a way to try something that no one had done before. The term “nugget” caught for Arend, and he suggested making a chicken nugget instead. The rest, of course, is history.

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Courtesy McDonald's

Tyson created a custom chicken breed for McNuggets

With a new idea in place, McDonald’s enlisted Tyson Foods to supply chicken for the McDonald’s chicken nuggets, and Tyson more than obliged; they actually made a custom breed of larger-breasted chicken known as the “Mr. McDonald.”

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The McRib was created because there wasn’t enough chicken for McNuggets

McDonald’s chicken nuggets were wildly successful. The beloved McRib sandwich was a ploy to get people excited about another new menu item because McDonald’s was running out of McNuggets! The McRib—a pork sandwich with sliced onions and pickles, and slathered with a tangy BBQ sauce—was put on the market. It quickly rose to fame as well.

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They don’t contain “pink slime”

A viral image of McNuggets being made from “pink slime” may have gone viral in 2004, but the image is fake. While the “pink slime” is used as a finely textured lean beef sold by the meat industry to plenty of suppliers, it is not used in the famous McNuggets. McDonald’s chicken nuggets are made with Tyson chicken, which is ground up, then fried and battered. This McDonald’s rumor isn’t true!

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Healthier McNuggets
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The chicken isn’t fully cooked until it goes to the restaurant

McDonald’s Canada shows how McDonald’s chicken nuggets are made, from grinding up the chicken to shaping the nuggets, coating them in batter, and frying them. But they actually don’t fry the chicken all the way! The chicken is “par-fried,” meaning it’s mostly fried to set the batter, but the chicken is still slightly raw in the middle. McNuggets are then frozen and sent to restaurants, where they will be cooked fresh before serving.

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There are four iconic shapes

Ever wonder why McDonald’s nuggets always look the same? Because they only come in four iconic McNugget shapes! There’s the “ball” which is round, the “bone” which is a rounded rectangle (also known as the “bow-tie”), the “boot” which has an edge jutting out and the “bell” which looks like a diamond.

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Courtesy McDonalds

The chickens don’t have antibiotics

In 2016, McDonald’s was able to successfully serve chicken that was not treated with antibiotics in an effort to follow World Health Organization guidelines within the United States. The chain plans to eliminate the use of antibiotics in its chicken by 2027. Currently, McDonald’s locations in Brazil, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Russia and Europe already serve McNuggets that are antibiotic-free.

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Courtesy McDonalds

The dipping sauces have changed over time

McDonald’s continues to change up its dipping sauce offerings. Customers can currently order Tangy Barbecue, Spicy Buffalo, Creamy Ranch, Honey Mustard, Honey, Sweet ‘n Sour and even Big Mac Sauce. However, in the past McDonald’s, has offered other flavors, such as Zesty Italian, Hot Mustard, and the beloved Szechuan Sauce. Learn how to make McDonald’s sweet and sour sauce in your kitchen.