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Mechanically separated chicken, by Brent_Zupp

With New Year’s Resolutions Day just around the corner, here’s some fast food for thought.

It’s become fashionable to hate on fast food, and for the most part we’ve moved well beyond thinking it’s anything but a junk-laden comfort drug. But just in case, here are eight reasons to stop eating fast food that you may not already know – just in time for your New Year’s resolutions to kick in. You are making New Year’s resolutions, aren’t you?

1. A shitty way to wait for death

People know that animals are frequently kept in horrendous conditions, but what do these Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (known more commonly by critics as “factory farms”) really mean? Try this for size:

  • Often, so many animals are kept in such a small space they are forced to stand in their own feces.
  • Animals may experience osteoporosis and joint pain because of their confinement. Sometimes they are so crammed together they can’t even turn around.
  • Confined chickens often go nuts, and attack and eat each other. The only way to stop this aggressive cannibalism is to chop their beaks off.
Some chicken nuggets contain an ingredient used in Silly Putty!
2. Pumped up on antibiotics

The crappy conditions the animals are kept in encourages bacteria to grow, and depress the animals’ immune systems. To stop them getting sick, the animals and their feed are pumped up on antibiotics.

  • This glut of antibiotics shows up in food, animal waste, and ground water run-off from farms, and encourages the development of drug-resistant strains of bacteria.
  • These drug-resistant strains are difficult to treat. It’s estimated that 18,000 people die in the US every year from infections resistant to drugs, and that these drug-proof bacteria raise health care costs by $4 billion annually.
  • Some scientists are concerned the antibiotic levels in our food may be unsafe.
3. You put WHAT in my food?

As well as high levels of antibiotics and hormones, fast food contains some pretty whack stuff.

  • Some chicken nuggets contain a chemical preservative called TBHQ (tertiary butylhydroquinone) – a butane derived from petroleum. Eating a gram of TBHQ can cause serious illness, and death can result from eating as little as five grams.
  • Photo by busyPrinting

  • Some nuggets contain dimethyl polysiloxane, which is an ingredient in Silly Putty. Sorry, but you did read that sentence correctly.
  • Many fast food chicken products are now made from mechanically-separated chicken, which is the result of processing the chicken carcasses for scraps of meat that would normally go to waste. Although the FDA claims it’s safe to eat, it’s just gross.
  • Most fast food ingredient lists also include beauties such as chemical preservatives, artificial coloring, monosodium glutamate, and more. A Big Mac at McDonald’s has dozens of leery ingredients, including one food additive banned in many parts of the world. While these substances are believed safe in small doses, it doesn’t seem right that we’re eating food chock full of artificial chemicals made in labs.
4. Immortalizing the burger

The last few years have seen a number of insane claims that McDonald’s burgers just don’t decay! recently reported an experiment from a New York photographer who has been documenting a Happy Meal every few days until it spoils. At the time of the report, the meal had lasted 137 days and still looked pretty good. You can check out the Happy Meal Art Project here.

To be fair, this phenomenon is probably less about zombifying preservatives, and more to do with the large amounts of fat and salt – and the corresponding lack of nutrients – in the McDonald’s meals. In other words, it’s likely that many fast foods would decay – or, not decay – in the same manner.

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FoodDiet + Nutrition


About The Author

Megan Hill

Megan Hill is a freelance writer from New Orleans. She recently finished a year of service with AmeriCorps NCCC and is seeking representation for her memoir of her service. Read more from her on her website.

  • Lola Akinmade

    Fantastic piece Megan! And super scary too.

  • Michelle Schusterman

    ew ew ew ew ew.

    Great piece. After watching a few documentaries and reading a few books on fast food a few years ago, I can honestly say giving it up was not difficult at all.

  • Courtney

    The Serious Eats blog did an experiment with the non-decaying hamburger. Apparently a homemade burger with no bad ingredients doesn’t decay either because it just dehydrated before bacteria can take hold.

  • Nick Rowlands

    Always wondered why I was addicted to Silly Putty. Not I know!

    Great piece, Megan!

    • Nick Rowlands

      Oops, that should read, “now I know”. Maybe I should cut down…

  • Christine Garvin

    Those corn syrup commercials PISS ME OFF. Thanks for calling them out, Megan.

  • Candice Walsh

    Ughhh, that mechanically separated chicken image makes me so sick. As does the rest of these facts…

  • Vernee

    I thought the picture of the mechanically separated chicken was strawberry ice cream until I read the caption. Great piece, the links are really helpful also.

  • Ayngelina

    Oh man, just in time for a New Year’s Resolution. People need to read this, I’m posting on Facebook.

  • gabriel

    Damn, I love your site, but c’mon. It’s just too much misinformation in a single post. That picture made the rounds ages ago and no one could conclude anything from it, it’s highly suspicious and it doesn’t look like what it’s purpoted to be. And ‘some scientists’, really? Why don’t you go along with most scientists?

  • Darrin

    Great piece. I wonder if I chicken nuggets can pick up images of newsprint like silly putty. That would make one fun happy meal!

  • moi

    Good work Megan!!
    PS: not only are the scraps mechanically separated, the actual living animal is being picked apart by mechanical hands. Liver, kidney, etc. the animal dies in agony and no one seems to care. Perhaps more people will consider the veg vagon! One would not believe what wonders can happen when you go veg.
    Check out Green Candy Paws, a bi annual online mag written by animals.
    Rory Freedman’s fab books titled Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard or Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals. These reads are sure to open your eyes about the meat industry and it’s tactics, then spread the word. We’re only strong in #s

  • Scott

    Item #5 is very misleading. You state there is no such thing as healthy fast food and then to prove the point, you describe two of the fattiest items on a fast food menu – a fried chicken sandwich and creamy salad dressing. The article loses lots of credibility right there. Why not discuss the grilled chicken instead? Oh right – because that’s much lower in fat and would disprove your point.

    There are plenty of fast food items that are perfectly healthy. A Wendy’s plain baked potato and side salad with fat-free dressing, for instance. And the bulk of Subway’s menu.

    This piece reads more like propaganda instead of an informed argument. I was expecting more.

    • Jessica

      No need to be mad. You can still enjoy eating fast foods. Kill yourself slowly. Get fat :)

  • Gale

      With all the facts that exist and are easily available, I still find myself indulging in the “junk food”  category from time to time. But I must say, as I remind myself of  the BENEFITS of eating the right foods and adding nutritional products to my diet, my progress has been improving with leaps and bounds.
      The all time best weight loss products and nutritional supplements have been proven to be at this website>>>

  • Валентин Янчий

    you have established a good and useful article. I like it. Found more interesting on this topic here

  • Alexander Del Valle
  • johnno (buy Australian)

    If you eat shit and die whose fault is it anyway???

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