We're just as surprised as you to list chicken, not beef, as the most popular fast-food meat, and to be honest, this one is tricky. In our analysis of several menus, chicken appeared as the first ingredient more than beef, pork or turkey. But that's a little misleading because many fast-food chains have more chicken-based menu items than beef. For example, McDonald's features chicken sandwiches, chicken nuggets, premium chicken strips, chicken snack wraps and a full line of premium salads topped with, you guessed it, chicken. If you talk consumption, though, you get a slightly different result. McDonald's bought 663 million pounds (301 million kilograms) of chicken in the U.S. in 2007, compared to 795 million pounds (361 million kilograms) of beef [source: Hughlett].
The future, however, is chicken. McDonald's 2007 purchases of chicken were up 59 percent from 2003, while its beef purchases were up just 10 percent over the same period [source: Hughlett]. Numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture bear this out: Chicken consumption more than doubled between 1970 and 2004, from 27.4 pounds (12.4 kilograms) per person to 59.2 pounds (26.9 kilograms) [source: Buzby]. Most of this growth can be traced to fast-food chains, where people like us step up to the register and order fried or grilled chicken -- and a hundred other ingredients that transform farm-fresh poultry into the fast-food chicken that we hate to love.
If you're not running out now to get some chicken mixed with citric acid and xanthan gum, keep reading for more fast-food knowledge.