McNuggets Vs. McBites: A McDonald’s Civil War


McNugs on the left, McBites on the right

Did it seem strange to you that McDonald’s, with McNuggets looking over its shoulder, decided to sire another chicken offspring? Maybe it was hoping for a baby like the full-piece fried chicken sold at Roy Rogers or KFC. But no, the baby turned out strange, tiny, and very chewy, in an extreme multiple birth.

Spicy buffalo sauce on the left, sweet chili on the right

While McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets are over an inch long and shaped like little shillelaghs (or maybe it’s hams? skulls?), and have a small quantity of jellied chicken inside, newly introduced McBites are much smaller, browner, and more amorphous, a chicken snack in three dimensions. (I don’t think you’d want to make a meal of these.) They’re also crisper and chewier. The roster of dips is the same for both products.

Which will win? The McNuggets, at least, are a familiar quantity among fast-food addicts, particularly liked by children, whose tiny hands the shape is perfect for. The McBites seem more aimed at adults, for whom three meals a day is not enough. The kind of people prone to walk into McDonald’s even when it’s not mealtime.

Both feature so-called white-meat-only chicken — which is vastly inferior to dark meat, all gourmets agree. The chicken inside the McBites doesn’t seem quite as processed as the strange bleached substance in the McNuggets. But here’s the drawback: There isn’t very much of it in total in McBites. In fact, some of the smallest wads don’t have any chicken in them at all — they’re pure breading. Crunchy, yes, but it’s strange to wonder, before you bite down, if you’ll find any chicken at all.

And therein may lie the genius in the McBites: McDonald’s is selling far less actual chicken than in the McNuggets. And they’ll be accustoming customers to not expect much when they bite down on something in what amounts to a chicken lottery. What if you took a bite of a Big Mac, and the patties were only half there? When it comes to McBites, “Hold the chicken, just give me the breading!” they hope their customers will say.

Now at war in your local McDonald’s

Newcomer McBites touted on a badly printed bag