JACKSON, Miss. (CBS Houston) – We have all wondered what exactly is in a chicken nugget, now with the help of researchers we may have found out the answer.

Researchers examined chicken nuggets and found that it is made up of 50 percent or less chicken muscle tissue.

Researchers went to two national fast food chains. They then randomly selected one nugget from the box. The next step was to preserve, dissect, and stain the nugget before looking at them under a microscope.

What they saw may be surprising. The authors wrote in the American Journal of Medicine that the “first nugget they examined was about half muscle, with the rest a mix of fat, blood vessels and nerves.” The second nugget had even less muscle, and the remainder was made up of fat, cartilage, and pieces of bone.

“We all know white chicken meat to be one of the best sources of lean protein available and encourage our patients to eat it,” Dr. Richard D. deShazo of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and lead author of the study told Reuters Health. “What has happened is that some companies have chosen to use an artificial mixture of chicken parts rather than low-fat chicken white meat, batter it up and fry it and still call it chicken.”

“It is really a chicken by-product high in calories, salt, sugar, and fat that is very unhealthy choice, deShazo added. “Even worse, it tastes great and kids love it and it is marketed to them.”

The researchers said that the nuggets they examined would be ok to eat occasionally but deShazo is worried some parents may feed them to their children too often.

According to the National Chicken Council, a non-profit trade group representing the U.S. chicken industry, their members produce and process for about 95 percent of the chicken produced in this country.

“This study evaluates only two chicken nugget samples out of the billions of chicken nuggets that are made every year,” Ashley Peterson, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the NCC told Reuters Health.

“Two nuggets is a small sample size,” deShazo acknowledged to Reuters Health; and went on to remind consumers that “not everything that taste good is good for you.”

The research team did not want to reveal which chain they obtained their nuggets from.

“Consumers aren’t necessarily being misled, since much of the nutritional information they need is readily available,” deShazao added. “We just don’t take the time to understand basic nutritional facts.”

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