Chicken is extremely versatile, so it’s easy to understand why most of us serve it up for dinner a couple of times a week.
It can be used for everything from tasty nuggets for the kids and weeknight slow cooker curries to lovingly prepared roast dinners for all the family.
The bird is eaten all over the world, and here in Britain we eat a staggering 2.2 million every single day.
But because we’re eating more and more and our consumption is so extreme, poultry farming has had to adapt. Agriculture is stretched (as it is in every area), and it’s having a telling effect on the quality of our chicken.
It’s often proclaimed that chicken is a healthy option in the meat world – much leaner than the likes of steak or lamb. But, according to studies, chicken isn’t quite as ‘good’ for us as it once was.
Compassion in World Farming has released a video about ‘white striping’ in chicken. These strands of fat appear due to the conditions the birds are kept in. They develop in factory farms.
The white stripes
Traditionally, chicken breasts are plump, tender, and have a small amount of fat running along the sides – but not strains cutting through the fillets.
The striping is down to the way chickens are raised in intensive farming. Farmers have to produce the birds on a mass scale, so they do everything to make their animals grow bigger, and more quickly. And chickens are fattier as a result.
A study last year by the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M concluded that “the severity of white striping has increased in recent years.” Scientists found white striping present in 96 per cent of the birds they tested (285 in total).
This white striping doesn’t just mean more fat, but it also “negatively impacts meat quality,” according to researchers. Apparently the meat isn’t as tender and doesn’t absorb marinades as well.
Fat usually means flavour, sure. But there’s also a common perception that factory farmed meat doesn’t taste as nice. So it’s sort of voided.
It’s worth mentioning that the study above was in the US – where farming is not usually as high quality as the UK and Europe . But it happens in the UK too.
Still, if we keep eating as much chicken as we do, we need factory farming. And white striping doesn’t completely ruin the meat. The chicken is still full of protein and will fill you up.
Jaclyn London, R.D., Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute, said: “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).”
Also, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council told BuzzFeed that white striping only affects a “small percentage of chicken meat” and “does not create any health or food safety concerns for people and the welfare of the chicken itself is not negatively impacted.”
So look out for white striping and avoid it if you can – but don’t throw your meat away if it’s there.