Chicken breasts have always been touted as the leanest protein on the market, but there’s a possibility we’re being duped.
That chicken breast that you thought was so healthy may not be what it appears. Recent research indicates that the chicken breast is evolving and not necessarily in a good way.
Chicken is the most popular protein consumed to date. The National Chicken Council estimates that the average American consumes 90 pounds of chicken each year. That’s 125 percent more than the year 1970. Much of that growth can be attributed to American’s growing efforts to eat a healthier diet, in which chicken is a perfect fit…especially the chicken breast.
This increased demand for chicken has caused chicken farmers to genetically manipulate the chickens to increase yield, especially in the breast. Today’s chickens are 300 percent larger than that of 50 years ago. Raising larger chickens doesn’t come without cost in the fat department. These new-age birds are higher in fat and lower in protein, making it not the healthy super food it was 40 years ago.
This effort to genetically modify chicken growth has led to genetic abnormalities as well. Muscular myopathies called white striping and wooden breast are now prevalent in many broiler chickens. In recent research by the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M, 285 chickens were studied and a whopping 96 percent of them showed signs of these genetic abnormalities. Who can argue that these aren’t the same type of chickens reaching our meat counters?
So, what does this mean for the consumer? Simply stated, your chicken breast may now contain up to 224 percent more fat, which also equates to less protein. One study found that a severally affected bird may contain the same fat content as that of medium-fat ground beef.
This problem can be remedied by being an informed consumer. Carefully inspecting chicken breasts for the prevalent “white stripes” will assure you of the leanest choice. Keep in mind, affected chicken doesn’t pose any health risks, it’s just that you may not be getting the leanest option available.
Fortunately, there may be an end to all this. The chicken industry itself, understands that this situation can’t continue. They’re aware that consumers will eventually become wise to this situation and simply walk away from any chicken showing signs of white striping. In addition, several large food giants like Chipotle, Panera Bread and Aramark, to name a few are putting pressure on the industry to solve these issues. Once consumers begin leaving the affected birds on the shelves, there will be a real incentive to fix the problem.
Despite the increased fat content you may find in today’s chicken breast, it’s still one of your best choices for lean protein. As mentioned earlier, the striping condition poses no health threats, but for the leanest choice, shop carefully or seek out chickens from a local farmer…one that’s not factory raised.