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Odd News Flashback: Deep-Fried McDonald’s Chicken Head

Odd News Flashback: Deep-Fried McDonald’s Chicken Head

Today we look back at a story that was first reported over a decade ago and is still debated to this day: Was an intact breaded chicken head served to a McDonald’s customer?

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This story first broke in late 2000. A woman named Katherine Ortega of Newport News, Virginia allegedly found an intact breaded chicken head in an order of McDonald’s “Mighty Wings” which were being test marketed in her area (not McNuggets as some have claimed). She took her order home and noticed an unusually-shaped “wing” in the box. Upon closer inspection, she realized it was an intact breaded chicken head. Ortega first contacted the McDonald’s store, but was not satisfied with the manager’s offer of a refund or replacement order. She then contacted the local media. Ortega considered a lawsuit, but it never materialized, perhaps because the head was not eaten, or because a chicken head is not considered a foreign object in a box of cooked chicken parts.

The incident has been referred to as McNasty, Unhappy Meal, and McNoggin.

The story made its rounds via email back in 2001, often accompanying a tirade regarding unsafe and flippant health practices by McDonald’s. It still occasionally resurfaces on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter, often failing to point out that the incident happened years ago.

ABC Video Segment

Below is a brief ABC news segment regarding the breaded chicken head.

Analysis of Incident

The incident has been discussed and debated over the past 15 years, with no clear consensus regarding its veracity. Below are some points made on both sides of the chicken head debate.

chicken-head-1Reasons why some believe it is fake:

  • It seems unlikely that an employee would not have noticed a chicken head while frying or boxing up the order.
  • Chickens are typically beheaded first before they are processed.
  • Every chicken requires inspection after the beheading and evisceration process.
  • The head appears too well preserved to have gone through machinery used to process chicken meat.
  • The head was not examined by McDonald’s or a lab.
  • A lawsuit was quickly threatened.

Reasons why some believe it is real

  • Reporters who were allowed to examine the head said that it looked real and that the breading matched what would be on expected on such a product.
  • The woman allowed reporters to take video and photos of the head, which have not been discredited.
  • Ortega never went through with a lawsuit, but maintains the story to be true.

Given both sides of the argument in this case, there are three popular explanations:

  • It’s true as reported.
  • The head was placed by an employee
  • The woman planted it in hopes of winning a lawsuit.
Here is the original news story regarding the breaded chicken head.

Here is the original news story regarding the breaded chicken head.

In 2015, the story was often referenced in a news report about a customer who allegedly found a deep-fried rat at a KFC. That allegeation proved to be false, and the “rat” was simply an unusually shaped piece of chicken.

Bottom Line

In 2000, a woman claimed to have found a fried chicken head in her order of McDonald’s “Mighty Wings”. Debate regarding the breaded McDonald’s chicken head will probably never be fully resolved.


Updated October 30, 2015
Originally published August 2013

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