From the secret ingredient that makes their fries so good to the one drink you should never order, McDonald’s food holds plenty of secrets, and McNuggets are no exception. The boxed, bite-size bits of chicken are one of the fast food franchise’s most popular menu items. But there’s something even the most devoted nugget connoisseurs may not know: every nugget that comes out of Mickey D’s is guaranteed to be one of four distinct shapes.
Don’t worry though, it’s not some freaky chicken conspiracy. It’s the result of a carefully planned process that occurs in McDonald’s factories. A Business Insider video, using footage from a McDonald’s factory in Canada, offers an inside look into nugget production. Before it goes to the fryer, the ground chicken breast meat that will become McNuggets goes through a “rolling cookie cutter” machine. The cutter ensures that the nuggets-to-be are all the same width and one of four shapes. The shapes are the “boot,” the “bell,” the “ball,” and the “bone” (or “bow tie”). Check out the video to see the shapes being made.
But just how different are the four shapes? How do you tell your boots from your bow ties?
Well, the ball is round, as you might expect. The bone/bow tie looks less like either of those things than like a somewhat warped rectangle. The bell is diamond-shaped, and the boot really does look somewhat like a wide boot with a thin toe. (Or like a hook, if you flip it over.) Though the shapes are somewhat less distinct after the batter is added, see if you can still identify them the next time you get your McNugget fix.
But why have special shapes at all? A curious consumer posed the question on the McDonald’s Canada website. A company representative replied that the shapes and their similar sizes ensure that they all take the same time to cook, which is necessary to ensure food safety. Plus, the shapes are fun for kids, and easy to dip for everyone!
And why is four the lucky number? Well, the Q & A page claims that “three would’ve been too few. Five would’ve been, like, wacky.” Honestly, though, we doubt McDonald’s consumers would’ve really cared either way.
Hungry for more trivia? Learn which countries have banned McDonald’s.