An exclusive investigation by Daily Mail might make you reconsider your next order of fried chicken at American fast-food chains. The investigation reveals these restaurants infuse their chicken with additives, preservatives, and other proteins to keep costs low. Some of these menu items are described as “premium” or “all-white-meat,” but far from it, instead include ingredients such as seaweed and even wood pulp.

The report said there are more than 120 ingredients hidden within chicken burgers or nuggets at fast food restaurants. Those ingredients are listed below on a restaurant-by-restaurant basis:


The enduringly popular McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets have been the center of controversy in the past – after a now-debunked video emerged in 2010 of ‘pink slime’ supposedly going into the nuggets at a factory. 

The brand worked hard to dispel this myth, but the treats are still not made from 100 percent chicken meat. 

The nuggets do contain white boneless chicken, but they are also full of several types of flour, flavorings, spices, acid, yeast extract, dextrose and lemon juice solids.


In the patty of the Wendy’s classic chicken sandwich, only 56 percent of the meat is chicken breast.

 The other 44 percent is a mixture of water, wheat flour, starch, acids, spices and flavor powders. It also includes fully refined soybean oil, raising agent and more unusual ingredients such a dehydrated chicken powder and smoke flavoring. 

The patty, bun and mayonnaise include over five allergens, so it’s worth checking the recipe before you tuck in if you have any allergies.

Carl’s Jr. 

Carl’s Jr nuggets are set apart from the other offerings on the market with their distinctive star shape. 

They also include some more unusual ingredients – namely ‘chicken type flavor’ – according to The Daily Meal. 

The outlet reports that the nuggets include beef flavor, which has three different types of protein in it (from hydrolyzed soy, wheat, and corn protein) and beef fat. 

As for the spicy chicken sandwich, it reportedly contains ‘isolated oat product’ in its patty, and microcrystalline cellulose in its bun – which is a refined wood pulp.


The chain has faced criticism in the past, with claims that some of its chicken products were made from non-chicken material. Subway responded to the claims, saying its ‘Oven Roasted Chicken and chicken strips are made from 100 percent all white meat chicken.’ 

However its products certainly aren’t made from chicken alone. Its oven-roasted chicken also contains flavorings, potato starch and carrageenan. 

This is a chemical compound which is safe to eat, but is made from parts of various red seaweeds. It is used to thicken foods, and does not have any nutritional value.

Jack in the Box 

Jack in the Box has various poultry-based offerings on its menu, including chicken tenders and nuggets.

 These products often contain wheat and milk, so those with allergens should check the ingredient list. 

The meat in the popcorn chicken also contains ‘isolated oat product’ among its other ingredients of chicken breast strips with rib meat, water and potato starch.


According to The Daily Meal, a significant proportion of the chain’s Southern-style chicken strips are not pure chicken meat, with up to 12 percent of each tender containing ingredients like water, sodium phosphate, and isolated soy protein.

 Isolated soy protein, which is derived from soy beans, is a common ingredient in processed foods as a way to bulk them out. 

This last ingredient is a common fixture in processed foods, the outlet reports. A protein derived from soybeans, isolated soy protein is a cost-effective way to bulk out foods. 

But those with potentially dangerous soy allergies should stay away from anything containing soy protein.

Burger King 

According to The Daily Meal, Burger King chicken nuggets also contain a whole host of flavorings alongside chicken breast and rib meat. 

These include autolyzed yeast extract, a substance derived from yeast, and other flavor enhancers including disodium guanylate, a form of salt that is sometimes used in tandem with MSG, and which is also found under the name E627. 

They are also unsuitable for anyone who can’t eat eggs, milk, wheat, gluten or celery.


Although known for its pizza rather than the traditional chicken tender or nugget, there are also extra ingredients in the fast food giant’s poultry offerings. 

Its grilled chicken contains tens of ingredients including modified corn starch, modified food starch and lipolyzed butter oil. 

Modified starch is typically used as a thickening agent, stabilizer or emulsifier, and to make foods last longer.

Dairy Queen

 Dairy Queen’s chicken strips contain a substantial percentage of ingredients other than pure meat. The uncooked tenderloin chicken fritters contain up to 18 percent of a solution of water, hydrolyzed soy protein, salt, and sodium phosphates. 

Sodium phosphate is used to improve the chicken’s texture, and help keep it fresher for longer. 

A Dairy Queen representative said: ‘Our chicken strips are 100% seasoned, white meat chicken. Each chicken strip is a single tenderloin that is marinated and breaded for maximum flavor. While we provide our ingredient lists to the public on, we refrain from providing the exact recipe or ingredient percentage for competitive reasons.’


According to The Daily Meal, the Buttermilk Chicken Fillet contains a surprising ingredient to help enhance its flavor – protein concentrate. 

Commonly consumed by athletes and bodybuilders, whey protein is frequently added to other foods to give them a textural and tasty boost and help them last longer on the shelf, it reports.

White Castle 

The shape of the chicken offering at this chain may be a clue that it is not 100 percent meat. 

These rings contain an extensive list of ingredients, including preservative carrageenan – which is derived from seaweed – and powdered cooked chicken.

This explanation may clarify things.

And a recent study from Imperial’s School of Public Health found higher consumption of ultra-processed foods (like the ones above) might be linked to an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer.

One might wonder why BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager overseeing trillions of dollars, hasn’t shaken up the fast food industry that appears to be serving consumers unhealthy food, which, according to Imperial, could potentially contribute to cancer. Isn’t the ‘S’ in ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) supposed to promote the health and safety of society and enhance the quality of life? Maybe Larry Fink is preoccupied with more important concerns, like climate change and gender identity.


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