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.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Arby's Menu Items and Ingredients (as of March 1, 2009)http://www.arbys.com/nutrition/
- BBC News. "Fast food salt levels 'shocking.'" Oct. 18, 2007. (April 15, 2009)http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7050585.stm
- Burger King Ingredients (as of February 2009)http://www.bk.com/#menu=3,-1,-1
- Buzby, Jean and Hodan Farah. "Chicken Consumption Continues Longrun Rise." Amber Waves, newsletter of United States Department of Agriculture: Economic Research Service. April 2006. (April 15, 2009)http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/April06/Findings/Chicken.htm
- Caramel Color Facts. Sethness Caramel Color. (April 15, 2009)http://www.sethness.com/dsp_ccfacts.cfm
- Driver, Dustin. "Good & Bad Preservatives." AskMen. (April 15, 2009)http://www.askmen.com/sports/foodcourt_150/181_eating_well.html
- Eat This, Not That! "The 11 Most Controversial Food Additives." Women's Health. (April 15, 2009)http://www.womenshealthmag.com/eat-this/The_11_Most_Controversial_Food_Additives/index.php?cm_mmc=MSN-_-ETNT-_-The%20Truth%20About%20Diet%20Soda-_-11%20Most%20Controversial%20Food%20Additives%20EL
- Food Ingredients and Colors. International Food Information Council. March 2005. (April 15, 2009)http://www.ific.org/publications/brochures/foodingredandcolorsbroch.cfm
- HealthDay News. "Study Finds High-Fructose Corn Syrup Contains Mercury." Washington Post. Jan. 28, 2009. (April 15, 2009)http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/26/AR2009012601831.html
- Hughlett, Mike. "No beef with chicken sales: Burger giant McDonald's, riding a wave of poultry consumption that has boosted its bottom line, is betting that chicken will be a hit at breakfast too." Chicago Tribune. May 13, 2008. (April 15, 2009)http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2008/may/13/business/chi-tue-mcdonalds-chicken-may13
- KFC Ingredient List (as of April 2009)http://www.kfc.com/nutrition/
- McDonald's USA Ingredients Listing for Popular Menu Items. (as of March 27, 2009)http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/nutritionexchange.do
- McDonald's USA Nutrition Facts for Popular Menu Items. (April 15, 2009)http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/nutritionexchange/nutrition_facts.html
- Meadows, Michelle. "MSG: A Common Flavor Enhancer." U.S. Food and Drug Administration: FDA Consumer. January-February 2003. (April 15, 2009)http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fdacmsg.html
- Nano, Stephanie. "New York takes lead in setting salt limits." Associated Press. April 26, 2009. (May 3, 2009)http://www.montereyherald.com/health/ci_12231788
- Science Encyclopedia. "Citric acid." http://science.jrank.org/pages/1506/Citric-Acid.html
- Taco Bell Ingredient Statement (downloaded April 15, 2009)http://www.tacobell.com/nutrition/ingredient-statement/
- U.S. Soybean Industry: Background Statistics and Information. United States Department of Agriculture: Economic Research Service. (April 15, 2009)http://www.ers.usda.gov/News/soybeancoverage.htm
- Women in Chemistry: Allene Rosaline Jeanes. Chemical Heritage Foundation. (April 15, 2009)http://www.chemheritage.org/women_chemistry/food/jeanes.html
- Zeratsky, Katherine. "What are the concerns about high-fructose corn syrup?" Mayo Clinic Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Oct. 24, 2008. (April 15, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-fructose-corn-syrup/AN01588
Canned foods are super convenient, but there's often a stigma attached to serving them. Is that warranted? HowStuffWorks takes a look.