Meat pies are less than one-third meat, while only half a chicken nugget is chicken flesh, a Fairfax Media investigation has found.

Pies sold by the big supermarket chains barely exceed the minimum government standard of 25 per cent meat, according to results from an independent accredited laboratory in tests commissioned by Fairfax Media.

Woolworths Home Brand pies contained 27.6 per cent meat, Four'n Twenty had 30.4 per cent and Coles Smart Buys 32.7 per cent. The analysis confirmed the presence of meat above the 25 per cent meat listed as an ingredient on the packaging.

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What's in your food?

Consumer affairs reporter Sarah Whyte looks into what's in meat pies and chicken nuggets.

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The government standard for meat pies is 25 per cent ''fat-free flesh''. Fat-free flesh is described by Food Standards Australia New Zealand guidelines as being the skeletal muscle of a slaughtered animal, and can include animal rind, fat and connective nerves, blood, blood vessels and, in the case of poultry, skin.

University of Sydney dietitian Alice Gibson said meat pies had little nutritional value when compared with lean meat.

''The product contains about 25 per cent meat and all the rest is water, refined carbohydrates, fat and salt,'' she said.

''The most common ingredient in meat pies is water. The rest of the ingredients will be pastry, gravy and vegetable protein.''

Consumer group Choice said processed meat such as sausages that list only ''meat'' in their ingredients could also contain the whole or parts of buffalo, camel, cattle, deer, goat, hare, pig, poultry, rabbit or sheep.

The analysis also showed the major supermarkets' chicken nuggets were only half meat.

Coles chicken breast nuggets were 53.8 per cent meat and Woolworths Home Brand crumbed nuggets had 55.3 per cent. Inghams tempura breast nuggets had 61.2 per cent.

Again, each contained meat at higher levels than stated on the labels.

''There is very little chicken in chicken nuggets and there is very little meat in meat pies,'' Heart Foundation spokesman Maurice Swanson said.

''They just meet the regulatory requirements to call it a meat pie. It's a disastrous choice from a health point of view, and if you're overweight, it's the worst thing to choose.''

A professor of agriculture and food chemistry at the University of Sydney, Les Copeland, said chicken nuggets were usually reduced to a pasty consistency that resembled ''mash''.

''It is reduced to a form that can then be reconstituted into a particular shape that can be packaged,'' he said.

Choice was particularly disappointed by the Coles results.

''Despite marketing the product as '100 per cent chicken breast', the fine print shows the actual chicken comes from something called chicken mix,'' spokesman Tom Godfrey said. A Coles spokeswoman said the supermarket chain's brand meat pies and chicken nuggets were ''100 per cent Australian-made''.

A Woolworths spokeswoman said its pies contained 25 per cent frozen muscle, while the chicken nuggets contained 48 per cent chicken breast.

A Four'n Twenty spokesman said gravy in its meat pies represented about 24 per cent of the filling.

He said the primary ingredient in the gravy was water.

Inghams did not return calls.