The World's Largest Chicken Nugget Isn't A Nugget At All

An investigation into very specific USDA nugget nomenclature.

Words matter. I'm not one of those killjoys who goes around litigating the use of "literally"—I misuse it constantly and with abandon—but I do think attention must be paid to food nomenclature. You don't order a sub and expect to receive a muffuletta. You don't order a tenderloin and receive a tender. That's why, when I saw a photo of the world's largest chicken nugget on the Guinness World Record website, I shrank back in disgust. The world's largest nugget is no nugget. The world's largest nugget is a loaf, and I'm going to prove it.

How big is the world’s largest chicken nugget?

First, a bit of pre-rant context. An article recently published on the Guinness blog celebrated the work of TikTok cooking duo Nick DiGiovanni and Lynn "Lynja" Davis. DiGiovanni currently has more than 8 million followers on TikTok, while Davis has about 11 million. Last year, the pair teamed up to create the world's largest cake pop, which is, forgive me, basically just a cake. (Again with the nomenclature!)

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Now, the two have once again made headlines with a chicken nugget weighing in at 46 pounds and 3.34 ounces, which Guinness officials claim is approximately 115 times larger than the average chicken nugget. The record-setting nugget contained the following:

  • 40 lbs. ground chicken
  • 40 eggs
  • 40 slices of white bread
  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • 3/4 cup onion powder
  • 3/4 cup garlic powder
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup black pepper
  • Those are nugget ingredients, all right. But they're also meatloaf ingredients, a fact that is integral to my argument: The world's largest chicken nugget is actually a slab of meatloaf.

The so-called chicken nugget is actually a loaf

We've explored nugget nomenclature before. In 2019, Gwen Ihnat reported on the precise classification of a nugget—namely, what differentiates a chicken nugget from a chicken tender. Ihnat draws a few conclusions. First, that nuggets are formed, while tenders are whole cuts "taken straight from the chicken itself." As we know, the Guinness World Record–breaking "nugget" is certainly not a naturally occurring cut of meat, thus disqualifying it from "tender" status.

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Ihnat also explored the USDA Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book, a document last revised in 2018. This is where things get good. In the document, the USDA defines nuggets as "irregularly shaped, usually bite-sized meat and/or poultry products which are usually breaded and deep fat fried and intended to be used as finger foods." Usually bite-sized.

The record-breaking "nugget" was not bite-sized. It was about 115 times larger than bite-sized, and it certainly wasn't intended as a finger food. Curious, I scrolled through the rest of the USDA document in search of a precise definition for "meat loaf." Here's what I found:

"Meat loaf: Uncooked or cooked pork, beef, veal or lamb, and other ingredients in loaf form, but not canned."

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Well, the big "nugget" wasn't made of pork, beef, veal, or lamb, so it's not technically a meat loaf. The USDA does, however, have a general definition for "loaf," which is as follows:

"A 'Loaf' (other than meat loaf) consists of meat in combination with any of a wide range of nonmeat ingredients. These products are not identified with the term 'Meat Loaf,' 'Beef Loaf,' or the like but with designations, e.g., 'Olive Loaf,' 'Pickle and Pimiento Loaf,' 'Honey Loaf,' 'Luxury Loaf,' and others that are descriptive."

The record-breaking "nugget" was not a Luxury Loaf, nor was it an Olive Loaf. But it was, in fact, a lump of meat in combination of a range of nonmeat ingredients. I even confirmed the USDA's definition of "meat," which is "the flesh of animals (including fishes and birds)."

There it is. There it is. Confirmation that the world's largest chicken nugget was, in fact, not a nugget a'tall. What's next? You gonna glue a bunch of candy canes together to make the world's largest peppermint? You gonna stack a bunch of beagles in a trench coat to form the world's largest basset hound? Don't even think about it. The Takeout—and the USDA—will be watching.

 

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