The next time you go to buy chicken breast meat, look out for the “white striping” on the meat—strips of fat that appear as a result of a condition many of the birds developed in factory farms.
As a result of changing practices in poultry farming, it turns out chicken is no longer as good for us as it once was.
Truly lean chicken breast doesn’t have any of these “white striping”. If you see them, it means that the chickens may be a lot fattier and less nutritious than it is supposed to be.
A study by the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M concluded that the “severity of white striping has increased in recent years”. Of the 285 birds that they tested, they found the stripes present in 96 percent of the birds.
They also discovered that this phenomenon “negatively impacts meat quality” in that they are less tender and don’t absorb marinades as well as a normal chicken meat.
Another study also found that chicken breasts with the “white stripes” can contain up to 224% more fat than normal chicken meat!
Watch this video by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF):
So What Are These “White Stripes” In Chickens?
White striping is a meat quality issue that degrades the taste and nutritional value of chicken, according to a report by CIWF.
While chicken meat usually contains a negligible amount of fat on the outside, white stripes are actually indicative of a muscular disorder, which causes damaged muscle tissue to be replaced by fat and collagen deposits, but not in a positive way.
Contrary to popular belief, the massive size of the modern chicken is not a result of added hormones. In fact, the muscle disorders that cause white striping—as well as another, less visible condition called “woody breast”—are linked to a chicken’s genetics.
Decades of selective breeding on factory farms have resulted in birds that grow too big, too fast. As a result, their legs often cannot support their unnaturally large breasts, and their heart, lungs, and other organs are often unable to keep up with the body’s demand for oxygen and nutrients.
A normal chicken would spend most of its life on the move—a factory-farmed chicken spends most of its life on the floor. Add to that dirty, overcrowded factory farm conditions, and you get abnormalities like white striping and woody breast that severely impact the life of the chicken and the quality of the meat.
The muscle disorders that cause white striping and woody breast are similar to muscular dystrophy in humans, meaning that affected chickens are in pain for most of their lives. If you spot white stripes in a raw chicken breast, you can be sure that the bird’s life was not a happy one.
What Can You Do About It?
There’s no need to give up on chicken just yet. Where possible, buy meat that have been “certified humane” or of “slow-growing” or “heritage” breeds.
You always have an option. Look out for these white stripes, and they’re easy to spot. You can always opt for selecting a piece of meat with no striping.
Or better still, consider adding other sources of protein to your plate!
Compassion in World Farming