As food comes, you don’t get more universal than chicken. As Homer Simpson once said: “Some of us don’t eat pork, some of us don’t eat shellfish, but all of us love chicken.” Fry it, bake it, grill it, it goes down well almost every time. Almost.
We heard that washing poultry isn’t as good as we once believed and then there’s the whole vegan movement, but there’s now a new, rather poignant argument that could have Tinder users and bodybuilders shaking in their boots.
An animal activist group wants you to think twice before chomping down on that grilled chicken sandwich. A new video from Compassion in World Farming is urging meat-lovers to learn about “white striping,” a muscle disorder affecting chicken breasts all over the world.
According to a study conducted in 2013, published by the Italian Journal of Animal Science, the condition known as “white striping” ups fat content by 224 percent and lowers the amount of protein.
Research published in Poultry Science the same year came to a similar conclusion: fat increased and muscle decreased proportional to the amount of white striping present in the chicken. Something you consider to be trivial could be the difference between reaching your health goals and staying in the same.
You might have already noticed white striping in your meat aisle already. The condition looks like white striations running parallel to the regular muscle. According to a 2016 study by the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M, “the severity of white striping has increased in recent years.”
In the study, they conducted 96 percent of the 285 birds they studied tested positive for the condition. More importantly the condition “negatively impacts meat quality” by affecting marinade uptake and cook loss. Have a look at the diagram below.
Chicken A shows you a regular chicken breast, whilst B gives you an example of slightly moderate white striping. Chicken breast C is the most severe. As you can see, he difference is subtle, but very substantial.
The poultry scientists believe that a simple case of supply and demand is at play: The average American eats more than 90 pounds of chicken every year, and that number is only going up (despite what the vegans might lead you to believe).
The market for cheap protein encourages farmers to produce bigger birds in less time. According to the National Chicken Council, the average bird sent to market in 1950 was 3.08 pounds and 70 days old. In 2015, however, the average bird weight had doubled – clocking in at 6.24 pounds – but the average age dipped to 47 days old.
Speaking to BuzzFeed, The Council says white striping only affects a “small percentage of white meat” and “does not create any health or food safety concerns for people”.
Jaclyn London, R.D. and Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute, stresses that chicken is still a healthy choice, saying that “chicken — so long as it’s not breaded and deep-fried — is a great source of lean protein (that also happens to be rich in B-vitamins, iron and vitamin B12)”.
She added: “Look for labels with a ‘No Antibiotics Ever’ seal; remember to properly cook, store and keep poultry at correct temperatures in the fridge or freezer; and avoid cross-contamination during meal prep.” Very reassuring, considering how much everybody loves the stuff. To be honest, as long as my chicken nuggets still taste good, I’ll be okay about this.