Episode 185: Why the Chicken Became a Nugget and Other Tales of Processed Food

Crisco and chicken nuggets

Two of the 20th century’s most popular processed foods: Crisco and chicken nuggets. Images courtesy of CHF collections and Evan Amos, Wikimedia Commons.

Have you ever wondered how chicken nuggets are made? Or what propylene glycol monostearate, monocalcium phosphate, or other listed ingredients are doing in your favorite packaged snacks? Distillations hosts Michal Meyer and Robert Kenworthy certainly wondered, and they went to the corner deli to inspect some processed food themselves.

They also spoke with experts Bryant Simon, a historian, and David Schleifer, a sociologist, about how trans fats and chicken nuggets arrived on the food scene as the healthier options, but have since turned into villains.

Both Simon and Schleifer suggest that when it comes to deciding what we eat, we might have less choice than we think. Class, geography, and convenience (for both food makers and food eaters) all play a role.

Show Clock

00:00 Introduction
00:36 Michal Meyer tries her first Tastykake
03:39 Trans fats: from savior to villain
10:55 Chicken nuggets: a not-so-healthy answer to “chicken fatigue”
16:37 BREAK: call to the community
17:07 The predictability of processed food: Why Michal’s olives taste different each time
19:47 Artificial mouths: what it takes to make a Dorito
21:58 The high cost of cheap food
27:00 Closing credits

Show Notes

Links to content:

“Afternoon Snack” - A video starring Michal Meyer and Bob Kenworthy. 
Mazola Corn Oil and Margarine - 1960 Commercial, Internet Archives
“The Detail” The Wire, Season 1, Episode 2

Trans fats in the news:

“FDA moves to phase out trans fats from food, citing health concerns” - NBC 
“FDA to ban artery-clogging trans fats” - CBS
“Trans fat ban, U.S. malaria danger, early puberty trend” - FOX
“FDA trans fat ban may target your favorite food” - ABC

Related media:

Mark Bittman’s Dream Food Label


Hosts: Michal Meyer and Robert Kenworthy
Guests: David Schleifer and Bryant Simon
Producer: Mariel Waloff Carr

Music Credits:

“Run Up”- Moby, mobygratis
“Stabbings”- Moby, mobygratis
“Christmas All Alone”- Candlegravity, Free Music Archive
“Elsewhere”- Phonotrash, Free Music Archive
“Tragic”- Semyon, Free Music Archive
“Dragon’s Lair”- Thiaz Itch, Free Music Archive
“The Spirit”- Waylon Thornton, Free Music Archive
“Heroines”- Diablo Swing Orchestra, Free Music Archive

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