Chicken nuggets are often marketed to children and people looking for a quick, cheap lunch. Restaurants like McDonald’s don’t want you to think about where the nuggets came from—they want you to be blinded by convenience and stop asking questions. Unfortunately for them, more and more people are taking an interest in where their food comes from.

chicken nuggets

A man inside of a dead Tauntaun | Jacob Enos | CC BY-SA 2.0 

Chicken nuggets start with—you guessed it—chickens. In the United States, more than 8 billion chickens are killed for their flesh each year. They’re often raised in giant windowless, ammonia-filled sheds, and the artificial lighting in the sheds is manipulated to make them eat as often as possible.

Broiler-Chickens

To keep up with the demand for chicken nuggets and other products made from chickens, birds are subjected to genetic selection and given growth-promoting drugs to ensure that they grow unnaturally fast. Today, it takes only six to seven weeks for most chicks to reach “processing weight.” Think about that for a second: The chickens used to make your nuggets were just babies.

GIF

It would be impossible for factory farms to keep the billions of animals they raise each year alive without drugs, so millions of pounds of antibiotics are fed to chickens so that they can survive in the cramped, filthy, and stressful conditions. They metabolize only about 20 percent of those drugs. The rest ends up in their feces, which is used to fertilize crops and often ends up in waterways—along with the drugs and bacteria it contains.

Broiler-Chicken-Sad

Chickens raised for their flesh today weigh 20 percent more than they did in the 1950s. Humans have shifted from eating whole chickens to eating parts of chickens, so the meat industry now raises birds to have larger breasts, wings, and “drumsticks” (part of the leg). They often suffer from skeletal issues, especially in their legs, and many die from ascites, a condition thought to be caused by the inability of their hearts and lungs to keep up with their rapid growth.

Chicken-broiler

After living short, miserable lives in windowless sheds, they’re often grabbed by workers and shoved into crates. Workers move so quickly and roughly that they often break the terrified birds’ bones during the process. The chickens then begin their harrowing journey to the slaughterhouse.

Man-grabbing-chickens

Once at the slaughterhouse, they’re hung upside down in shackles. Can you imagine hanging upside down by a broken leg?

GIF

Machines slice open their throats, and they’re immersed in scalding-hot water to remove their feathers. Many remain conscious throughout this process.

GIF

We’re getting closer to the chicken nugget part: The chickens are de-boned, and their lifeless bodies are cut apart. McDonald’s Canada released a video showing how its chicken nuggets are made.

GIF
McDonald’s Canada

Workers hack off their breasts so that their flesh can be turned into nuggets and then send them down the assembly line. The breasts are dumped into a giant bin before being sent to the “blending room.”

GIF
McDonald’s Canada

The “blending room” is likely what you pictured: It has a giant grinder that mashes up all the meat that’s tossed into it—so one chicken nugget can contain the flesh of many different birds. The flesh is then poured into a blender.

GIF
McDonald’s Canada

In the blender, it’s mixed with seasonings and chicken skins.

GIF
McDonald’s Canada

The meat is formed into nuggets, which are dipped in batter and fried. Many people look at these perfectly packaged nuggets and choose not to think about where (or whom) they came from. But not you—you know the truth.

GIF
McDonald’s Canada

Knowledge and power go hand in hand. Now that you know about the cruelty that goes into making chicken nuggets, you can choose to do something about it. Never eat animals, and try introducing your family and friends to tasty vegan chicken options like these:

Vegan-Chicken-Products-You-Didn't-Know-Existed-Thumb