If you haven’t seen the recent review in the Huffington Post that lists what a panel of dietitians have categorized as the healthiest frozen chicken nuggets, the ones that are “iffy” and the ones to avoid, it is worth reading.
Admittedly, I haven’t tried all of those listed, but the lists in the Huffington Post, also known as HuffPost, have left me wondering. We’ve probably all heard criticisms of how those who market poultry products love to use special labels like “antibiotic-free,” “vegetarian-fed,” and “natural.” Some labels are meaningful, such as “gluten-free” and others that may deal with allergies, while others have less significance.
And it’s interesting that when you look at the list of the chicken nuggets that are most recommended, there are certainly no shortages of labels on those products.
Those identified as ‘the best’
Topping the list is Bell & Evans Chicken Breast Nuggets. In large letters on the packaging are the words “raised without antibiotics.” The reviewers pointed that out as a selling point, along with the fact that the products are “fed only U.S.-grown organic grain.”
Next on the list is Nature Raised Farms Organic Gluten-Free Chicken Breast Nuggets. The name includes two labels in particular. But on the packaging you will also see “no antibiotics ever,” “no added hormones or steroids,” “100% vegetarian diet,” “gluten-free,” and “all natural.”
Applegate Chicken Nuggets also made the good list. The packaging on those products include “no antibiotics ever,” “humanely raised,” and “chicken raised on vegetarian feed, on family farms, with at least 24 percent more space than industry standard and environmental enrichments to promote natural behaviors and well-being.”
Ian’s Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets also earned an endorsement, with the gluten-free designation being the main selling point. But the packaging also points out that the chickens were raised with no antibiotics, and the products contain no milk, no eggs, no peanuts or tree nuts and no soy.
Earth’s Best Chicken Nuggets for Kids also found favor with the reviewers, with “no antibiotics used” and "vegetarian-fed being" eye-catching labels.
Finally, Trader Joe’s Chicken Breast Nuggets made the good list. Special labels on these nugget products include “all-vegetarian diet” and “no antibiotics.”
Lower-rated products have fewer labels
The use of special labels on the products to make the “less than ideal” and “worst” lists is much less than those on the list of endorsed products. And interestingly enough, the reviewers pointed out that one product on the list used the phrase “no added hormones,” which is meaningless, and they also advised proceeding with caution when reading the label, “100 percent natural.”
Should we trust these ratings?
There is no doubt that many people question the objectivity of HuffPost articles. But since registered dietitians were consulted, it brings some credibility to the list.
However, I can’t help but think of a session at a past Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, in which registered dietitian Amber Pankonin said that even though they shouldn’t, many dietitians chose their career because they want to be activists.
Companies are certainly justified in using meaningful labels to differentiate their products, especially if they point out health benefits, but have consumers and reviewers become over-reliant on them? I’d love to know your answer to that question.