Who Invented Chicken Nuggets?

Posted on 14 Jul 2016 00:54

When Were McDonald's Chicken Nuggets Introduced?

Like the fast food kid's meal, and the drive-through window, many people assume McDonald's invented the chicken nugget. Certainly, when we think of chicken nuggets McDonald's is generally the first thing to come to mind. In fact, it is fair to say that McDonald's popularized chicken nuggets and brought them into the mainstream when they introduced McNuggets in 1980, but this was long after they were invented.

So, Who Really Invented Chicken Nuggets?

The inventor was a food scientist named Robert Baker, who thought up these crispy little nuggets in the 1950's. He was looking for a way to use leftover chicken and he actually published his recipe in the 1950's without bothering to patent the invention.

Since then, the basic way chicken nuggets are made hasn't changed much, although the quality and proportions of the ingredients used may vary.

Robert Baker wasn't just some kitchen tinkerer. He was a poultry science and food science professor at the prestigious Cornell University, one of the leading centers of food research in the country. He also invented the classic, His barbecue sauce was actually developed when he was at Pennsylvania State University, read more on WhatsCookingAmerica.netCornell Chicken Barbecue Sauce, as well as turkey ham, and poultry hot dogs (something better left uninvented?)

However, Baker's nuggets never proved very popular. This is often the case with new food inventions. They just looked too strange: Not like chicken! But when McDonald's started selling their Chicken McNuggets, a term which they trademarked, the public was willing to give them a try, and they've been a mainstay ever since.


What many readers will not know is that the introduction of McNuggets actually began in 1979 and they were not born in a McDonald's food lab. Instead, McDonald's commissioned the chicken giant Tyson Foods to create them. They essentially consisted of finely ground chicken and phosphate salts. Today, nuggets are made from either mechanically separated chicken (MSC), or white meat, mixed with mostly corn-based binders and fillers.

The biggest complaint about the modern chicken nugget is that it contains very little chicken! It's true. Some commercial chicken nuggets contain up to 37 ingredients. As said, the majority of these come from corn.

If you want more chicken with your chicken nuggets, look for products that contain mostly white meat and as few other ingredients as possible.

As for McDonald's, their chicken nuggets today are made from white meat chicken, but of course there are other ingredients!

Not Just About Chicken Nuggets

Robert Baker was much more than the chicken nugget inventor, and he wasn't really just interested in creating a way to make chicken into odd shapes like dinosaurs. If chicken nuggets had never taken off, he may not have been remembered as the "nugget man." He was at work during a time when there was little profit in selling who birds, as the price of chickens had dropped tremendously in the global market. He wanted to find ways to add value to chicken after processing, and he really should be given credit for having kicked off chicken processing as we know it today. Some would say "credit" is not the right word, but they are probably munching on some chicken nuggets as they say it.

Other Notes About Robert Baker The Nugget Man

  • Co-invented the machine used to debone chicken
  • Invented over 40 poultry, turkey, and cold cut related products
  • Created a new way to bind breading to chicken
  • Founded Cornell University's Institute of Food Science and Marketing
  • Member of the American Poultry Hall of Fame
  • Called the 'George Washington Carver' of Poultry
  • Besides being called the Nugget Man he was also called Barbecue Bob
  • Brought his famous Cornell Chicken to the state fair in Syracuse each summer for many years
  • Created a new way to bind breading to chicken
  • Created frozen french toast
  • Involved in the development of the vacuum packaging used in the chicken industry
  • Started Baker's Acres with his wife, in North Lansing just down the road from Cornell (see website)

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