A cursory glance into a greasy cardboard carton of Chicken McNuggets is all you need to tell you that there is something artificial at work. However delicious they may be, it's clear to anyone with even the most basic understanding of chicken anatomy that no poultry comes naturally nugget-shaped.
The only conclusion is that someone or something has spent some considerable time moulding and reforming extraneous bird pieces into golden crusted lumps, like a demented, fowl-obsessed Dr Frankenstein. Happy Meals no longer seem quite so happy.
A closer look at a McNugget box, however, reveals that these are not random assemblages of ex-chicken. When you've eaten as many nuggets as the Food Envy team, a pattern begins to emerge. Many an avid McDonald's fan will have made the discovery that there are in fact four separate species of nugget, each one of which is shaped in a totally unique way. It turns out that these individual designs are no accident.
A question posted on a McDonald's Q&A forum by clearly avid patron "Stew from British Columbia" provided an answer to the nugget riddle straight from the horse's mouth.
According to a McDonald's spokesman, the four unique shapes have been vetted and selected to fulfil a specific criteria. The nuggets have apparently been carefully curated and fashioned in the "perfect equilibrium of 'dipability' and fun". At least McDonald's aren't taking cheap, deep fried chicken bits too seriously.
The business have since gone on to provide a few further details about the nugget-making process. A second representative added: "Our Chicken McNuggets are shaped uniquely for kids and kids at heart. Plus, we think it makes dipping all the more fun." When quizzed on why four shapes specifically, they replied: "Three would've been too few. Five would've been, like, wacky."
According to official sources, the four shapes even have their own names, although these vary from region to region. Generically, they are known as, "the Bone", "the Bell", "the Ball" and "the Boot". Despite sounding more like a dodgy 70s crime-fighting quartet than anything edible, the names have stuck for the majority of McDonald's employees.
For all the whimsy of McDonalds' naming process, there still remains the question of how the nuggets come to be so uniform in the first place. Fortunately, the Canadian wing of the global fast food franchise has stepped up and released a rather unappetizing video revealing the grisly details of the process.
In the clip, we can see what looks like beige modeling putty being swept along a giant conveyor belt. As the putty passes under a rotating cookie cutter, shaping it into the four unique designs, it becomes clear that this is in fact the chicken meat that will soon become nuggeted. The newly formed pieces are battered, bagged and frozen ready for transport. Though the video may provide some answers, it certainly doesn't make nuggets seem any more palatable.
If the shape of nuggets proves anything, it's that no aspect of a fast food menu is left up to chance. Everything has been carefully curated to make it as reliable to reproduce in as many different locations as possible. While this can be comforting, it's also worth reminding ourselves that if you want to enjoy something cooked by a human, Maccies might not be the place to go. Nothing handmade is ever as consistent as "the Bone", "the Bell", "the Ball" and "the Boot".