Breast Striping

There’s a bit of bad news for those of you who like eating chicken breast. Are you familiar with white stripping? It’s a disorder than can affect chicken breasts. Specifically, it’s a muscle disorder that changes the fat to muscle (and therefore, protein) ratio by increasing fat by over 200%, according to a 2013 study published in the Italian Journal of Animal Science. It’s not just an isolated incident, either: similar conclusions were reached by Poultry Science in the same year, confirming the fact that white striping ultimately results in more fat and less muscle tissue.

If you regularly buy chicken breast, it’s possible that you’ve noticed this phenomenon already. Generally, consumers can expect their chicken breast to be a healthy pink color. However, chicken breast affected by this muscle disorder will be visibly distinct. Instead of a uniform pink shade, thin white stripes, typically parallel to the muscle structure, will be visible. The more severe the condition, the more obvious the white striping. Even if you haven’t come across it yet, chances are fairly good that you will soon. It seems like the number of white striping cases is increasing.

There are some ramifications that come with white striped chicken. As a result of the altered ratio between fat and protein, the quality of the meat is decreased overall. It may cook poorly, and ultimately, a fattier cut of meat results in a larger portion of cooking loss. In short, you’ll be getting less bang for your buck. It may be the cost of chicken that plays a role in the prevalence of white striping- namely the fact that the demand for cheap meat provides an incentive for farmers to get chickens to market faster- which means finding ways to bulk them up more quickly.

So how big of a problem is this? According to the National Chicken Council, it’s a little early to claim the sky is falling. By their count, white striping does not affect the majority of chicken meat, nor does it cause health concerns for those who consume it. Furthermore, when it comes to meat, chicken is still one of the healthier, more affordable sources of protein out there. It provides a number of important vitamins and carries fewer risks than beef or pork. How you cook the chicken also plays a significant role. Consider grilling your chicken, rather than deep-frying, and if you’re serious about eating healthy, look for chicken that has been raised without antibiotics.

Related: The 10 Dirtiest Foods You’re Eating


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