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

Pop quiz: Can you name their four shapes?

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Box of McDonald's Chicken McNuggetsShutterstock / Lenscap Photography

They were invented because Americans were scared of red meat

In the ’50s and ’60s, more Americans than ever were suffering from heart attacks—and doctors were finally getting a clue that saturated fats and red meat might be a factor. For a burger joint like McDonald’s, that meant sales were dropping. To bring back consumers, the fast food chain started working on chicken items to round out its beef-forward menu, according to Time. The result: chicken nuggets.

Skip the drive-thru and make your own McDonald’s copycat recipes.

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Knife and forkShutterstock / Aleksandra Berzhets

They were created by a chef who worked for the queen

Who better to formulate a recipe for the world’s biggest fast food chain than someone with royal experience? To help the McDonald’s reputation-changing menu change, the company called on Rene Arend, a Luxembourg-born chef whose resume included making dinner for Queen Elizabeth II and the king of Belgium. Find out what McDonald’s menu looked like the year you were born.

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Fried chickenShutterstock / krechet

They weren’t the first chicken dish

Even a chef with those credentials couldn’t be expected to create the perfect recipe on his first shot. His first idea was a deep-fried chicken pot pie, but it failed in testing. The team also tried fried chicken but couldn’t drum up excitement with restaurants like KFC dominating the market.

Get KFC’s famous fried chicken secret recipe, here.

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onion and onion slices on wooden cutting board.; Shutterstock ID 614533241NUM LPPHOTO/Shutterstock

They weren’t the first nugget, either

McDonald’s almost gave up on the chicken idea entirely and pulled out a completely different item: onion nuggets. Those hit the market in the 1970s and actually inspired the Chicken McNugget, which debuted in the early ’80s. The onion nuggets were pulled off the menu after their meaty cousin stole the show. Check out these surprising McDonald’s menu items you won’t find today.

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McRibRobson90/Shutterstock

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

In a 2009 interview, Arend said that when McDonald’s first introduced the nuggets, they were such hot sellers that every franchise wanted to get their hands on them. At that point, McDonald’s couldn’t keep up with the demand, so the chef claims he created the McRib so other franchises would still have a new menu item—without requiring the low-supply chicken.

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Chicken nuggets with saucegowithstock/Shutterstock

Tyson created a custom chicken breed for McNuggets

To keep up with demand for the popular its popular nuggets, McDonald’s paired up with Tyson Foods. Tyson ended up creating a new chicken breed, the “Mr. McDonald,” with extra-large breasts.

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chicken mcnuggetsShutterstock / Ratana21

They don’t contain “pink slime”

A viral video of “pink slime” that supposedly came from McDonald’s gave McNuggets a bad name, but the image wasn’t actually from the chain, who insists they’ve never used it. The gross-looking “pink slime” is known as lean, finely textured beef in the meat industry, and plenty of suppliers use it. The goo looks gross and is treated with ammonia hydroxide, but it’s entirely safe to eat. Regardless, McDonald’s stopped using ammonia in its products (McNuggets included) in 2012, after a push from the public.

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Chicken nuggetsgowithstock/Shutterstock

Those iconic shapes have names

You’ve probably noticed that chicken nuggets always come in the same four shapes, but did you know each one has a name? The “ball” is round, the “bone” looks like a rounded rectangle, the “boot” has an edge jutting out, and the “bell” is diamond-like. No matter what you call it, a McNugget by any other name would taste just as good. These are the McDonald’s secret menu items you need to order.

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chicken mcnuggets close-upShutterstock / gowithstock

There are four shapes for a reason

Albeit maybe not the most scientific reason. According to the McDonald’s Canada website, “The four shapes we make Chicken McNuggets in was the perfect equilibrium of dip-able and fun. Three would have been too few. Five would’ve been, like, wacky.” Hard to argue with that logic. Here are secrets McDonald’s employees won’t tell you.

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Close up shop sign McDonald's is on the road W Century Blvd in Los Angeles.Shutterstock / Etaphop photo

They’re the highest-calorie item on the menu

If you get the 40-pack, that is. The pile of nuggets contains 1,770 calories—though considering the amount of food you’re getting, that’s not too far off from eating just one 1,130-calorie Double Bacon Smokehouse Burger. You’re probably better off sticking with six McNuggets. Find out which countries have actually banned McDonald’s.

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Chicken nuggets and sauces at McDonald'sShutterstock / StreetVJ

Its sauces have changed over time

Right now, you can dip your nuggets into signature sauce, spicy buffalo, creamy ranch, habanero ranch, honey mustard, honey, sweet ‘n’ sour or tangy barbecue. But back in the day, you might have enjoyed pairing yours with discontinued options like Szechuan sauce, zesty Italian, green chili salsa, or hot mustard.

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White flourkomkrit Preechachanwate/Shutterstock

They contain 30 ingredients

There’s chicken of course, but their other ingredients include vegetable oil, flour, vegetable starch, and leavening agents. Don’t miss these 14 things you never knew about the Big Mac.

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