I have to credit Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma as the source of my drive to become progressive in my food choices and overall cooking and eating habits. It’s been a few years since I first was shocked by some of its disclosures about BigAgBiz’s (BAB’s?) commonplace maltreatment of cows, pigs and chickens and I periodically wonder if his bringing these unhealthy practices to light caused any reforms? Has tail docking of pigs been reduced? Does McDonald’s still have TBHQ in its chicken based happy meals? TBHQ is tertiary butylhydroquinone, a petroleum-based chemical that we would probably rather not have our children ingesting even trace amounts of if we can help it.
I took a gander at the McDonald’s nutritional information on their website and, sad to tell, TBHQ not only still helps the breading stick to the chickcorn but it is listed with the fish fillet, chicken fillet and the french fries. Here’s how trace amount of TBHQ – at of course acceptable FDA levels – is described on their site for the nuggets:
Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.
Next to the fries entry the listing for TBHQ is phrased slightly differently to say it is paired with the oil to preserve freshness. Also of note, Dimethylpolysiloxane, in other industrial uses, also doubles as a component of silly putty (just Google that ingredient to confirm this if you are curious). Here’s a link to McDonald’s nutrition info list:
So this beat goes on whether it’s controversial or not and we have mostly pried my daughter away from fast food stops. She still loves the breaded chicken oval, however, and I will still serve her a version of it from my grocer’s freezer now and then. Fortunately, she has started to evolve past the formed chickorn to accept and even like drumsticks and baked breaded chicken breasts that didn’t come out of a box.
My daughter likes the Kid Cuisine nuggets dinner and this has become a big guilty pleasure because of the unnecessary packaging around 6-7 chicken orbs and the fact that Kid Cuisine’s manufacturer is ConAgra Foods. I still get one for her once in a while but have let her know it’s no longer a staple. Last night I tried out the health food variety, Ian’s, kid chicken for the first time and she said ‘good’ after the first nugget but then nibbled around the second one and stopped. She summed it up as the flavor was on and then it was off. I tasted one that she left behind and kind of knew what she meant. Oh well.
The chicken patties that fit on a sandwich bun made a nice next step in our evolution away from the kid meals. To avoid supporting BABs patties that are widely available, I tried Applegate Farms frozen chicken patties. Applegate has two lines of products with different labels, you may have noticed: Applegate Farms and Applegate Organics. The Applegate Organics Chicken Strips also did not pass the kid test for taste, unfortunately, but Applegate Farms patties taste good to all of us and I keep them around when I can find them. (Whole Foods didn’t have them on my most recent trip, and I’ve started seeing the ‘Farms’ version of Applegate’s products at Safeway. Draw your own conclusions.)
Applegate explains the difference between their organic label frozen chicken patties and strips and the natural (non-organic) products in that line as the organics are guaranteed to be free of GMO’s in animal feed and product ingredients, and sometimes the natural products will have GMO’s if there is a shortage of supply.
Barber Foods is as close as I get to convenience food these days but their line of stuffed, breaded chicken breasts – big nuggets, we call them – make us all happy and their salt content is pretty good at 440 – 490mg per individual breast in the varieties that we like to get. While I couldn’t find much info about the treatment of the chickens themselves, I was pleased to see a detailed section on their sustainability practices:
They are a USDA plant, so their operations must be fairly big. Still, not McDonald’s big or Tyson’s big. I can usually find the Barber’s chicken at Safeway and the bigger boxes of six individually wrapped servings at Smart and Final.