Conventional wisdom informs us that white meat is better for our health than red; while beef and pork get a bad rep for being fatty and high in cholesterol, chicken meat has always been given excellent grades for being lean and easy to cook.
But chicken lovers were taken aback earlier this year when Compassion in World Farming released a short video where they asked some people why they preferred chicken.
Most answered that chicken was presumed to be the healthy choice, until the interviewer informed them that a study by the University of Bologna had found otherwise.
They were confronted with data that proved that modern farming methods had resulted in poultry that had 224 percent more fat than its predecessors who were allowed to grow normally.
The reason for this is that modern farms use genetic enhancement techniques that force the chicken to grow faster and bigger than ever before.
Where once a normal sized chicken took 63 days to grow into its full size, farms these days grow chicken twice that size in 47 days. This results in poorly developed bone and muscle structures and excessive fat in the poultry.
From the perspective of a health conscious individual, this is equal to a production fraud. Chicken prices are more competitive than ever, yet what you buy from the grocery is poor quality meat that is much less healthy for you than advertised.
The major culprit for this seems to be the growing meat consumption in U.S. households in the last few decades.
On average every American consumes 91 pounds of chicken annually.
To keep up with this massive demand, farms have tried using several underhanded methods to quicken production time.
However, the results are bad not just for the consumers who are paying more for less, but also for the poultry. One of the reasons Compassion in World Farming made that video was to educate people about the way the primary meat in their diet was being produced.
But another equally important reason was the fact that modern poultry farming techniques cause muscular tissue disorders in the birds. This causes the chicken constant pain throughout its brief life.
Research shows that the white striations present in chicken breasts are markers of hastily grown muscles.
They also contain dense concentrations of fat which puts the lie in the idea that chicken is a lean meat.
While these white stripes in chicken meat aren’t harmful to human health, they don’t have any nutritional value and defeat the point of producing larger birds for our consumption.
The video that sparked this conversation ends with the respondents disturbed by the idea that their chicken is less healthy than they believe. It made sense to them that a slightly more expensive meat grown by more conscientious farmers might be the way to go.
But for most households, economy will always take precedence over other considerations. Which is why it’s important to hold modern poultry farms accountable for the way they grow their chicken. If most chicken farmers can be convinced to use healthier techniques for growing their poultry, then the price of meat would not be controlled by the unscrupulous.
Studies are already underway to conclusively prove the relationship between bad farming methods and poor quality meat. The way forward is to be aware of the issue and question the producers if you see unhealthy white stripes in chicken that you buy. Holding the poultry farming industry accountable is the only way to preserve the delicious taste of chicken in a healthy, ethical way.