After the U.S. government put out its burger warning, leaders at McDonald’s knew they had to come up with a new menu item—and fast.
The company’s head chef experimented with possibilities. Chicken pot pie? Taste-testers wrinkled their noses. Bone-in fried chicken? KFC already did that. Onion nuggets? Just . . . no.
But wait: What about chicken nuggets?
Right away, McDonald’s leaders knew nuggets were a winning idea. Luckily for them, the company had Baker’s Chicken Crispie recipe from years earlier to help them craft the perfect nugget.
In 1983, Chicken McNuggets launched in McDonald’s restaurants across the country. They were an instant hit. Diners who had given up burgers fell in love with this crispy creation. Later, experts would learn that these deep-fried nuggets were no healthier than burgers. But by then, it was too late—the nugget had already become an American classic.
Baker never made money off his most famous invention. But he achieved his goal: America turned into a nation of chicken eaters. Today, we gobble up more than 2.3 billion orders of chicken nuggets each year. And they aren’t just a fast-food item. They’re everywhere—cafeterias, kids’ menus, the grocery store.
So the next time you bite into a chicken nugget—or a tofu nugget—you can think of Baker.