If you were concerned about the unusual white bits that can sometimes be found on raw chicken, research confirms that you were right to be worried.
Those white bits are actually caused by a muscle disorder called “white striping”, which is contaminating more than 90 percent of the currently available chicken on the market. The condition looks like white striations running parallel to the regular muscle.
The problem is the focus of a new campaign by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), an animal welfare group. CIFW links the condition to breeding chickens that grow too fast. “While the specific causes of muscular disorders like [white striping] are still being researched, the vast majority of studies conducted thus far have found a correlation between fast growth, heavier weights, higher breast yield, and the development of myopathies in broilers,” the report states.
According to CIFW, white striping is a serious meat quality issue which degrades the taste and nutritional value of chicken, resulting in meat that contains higher concentration of fat, is less tender and doesn’t absorb marinade as readily. CIWF also criticizes the suffering that animals experience from putting on weight too rapidly.
Here is the CIFW campaign video where they raise awareness for the condition:
The prevalence of white striping muscle defects has drawn the attention of researchers, with several big studies in recent years. Here are some interesting findings:
- According to a 2013 study published in the Italian Journal of Animal Science, the condition ups fat content by 224% and lowers the amount of protein;
- Research published in Poultry Science the same year came to a similar conclusion: fat is increased while muscle is decreased, relative to the amount of white striping;
- According to a 2016 study by University of Arkansas and Texas A&M, “the severity of white striping has increased in recent years,” identifying it in 96% of the 285 birds they tested. More importantly, they concluded that the condition “negatively impacts meat quality” by affecting marinade uptake and cook loss.
Despite the research findings, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council responded that white striping affects only a “small percentage of chicken meat,” mainly “larger birds, not overall production,” and “does not create any health or food safety concerns for people and the welfare of the chicken itself is not negatively impacted.”
Companies including Chipotle and Panera have recently pledged to use slower-growing chickens as part of their animal welfare policies.