Here’s Why People Are Freaking Out About White Stripes on Chicken Meat

published Feb 8, 2017
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Raw chicken breast meat is usually a pale shade of lightly translucent pink. But if you’ve been paying attention to the meat you buy, then chances are you’ve occasionally noticed a few extra white stripes on your protein. While seemingly harmless, an animal welfare group is advising consumers to be wary of chicken with “white striping” present, reports Buzzfeed.

What Is White Striping?

White striping on chicken meat reflects a muscle disorder. It can be visually seen in the meat — the white stripes run parallel to the muscle of the meat. Studies have found the disorder to impact the taste, quality, and tenderness of the meat and its fat content.

So, What’s the Problem?

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), an animal welfare group, wants consumers to know their chicken meat is not as healthy as they believe it is when it has those stripes. Those who consume chicken as a source of lean protein should know the CIWF claims, citing a study published in the Italian Journal of Animal Science, that chicken breasts with white striping have 224 percent more fat than chicken breasts without striping.

According to CIWF, farming conditions may play a part in chickens getting the disorder. “There are recent scientific reports of an increase in the incidence of myopathies (muscle tissue disorders) in broilers, including conditions known as wooden breast and white striping; it is believed that selection for fast growth and increased muscle mass in broilers has played a key role in this increase, declining nutritional value of factory-farmed chicken,” CIWF said in its report.

Well, How Common Is It?

A 2016 study by University of Arkansas and Texas A&M found 96 percent of a sample of 285 birds were affected by white striping. But according to a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, the striping condition only impacts a “small percentage of chicken meat” and is limited to larger birds.

Why Is It Happening?

Growing demand for chicken may be responsible. According to the Pew Research Center, average chicken consumption has “more than doubled” since 1970 and chicken has been ranking as the most-consumed meat for the past decade. In 2014, for example, the average American consumed roughly 47.9 pounds of chicken a year. The National Chicken Council says Americans went from eating 28 pounds of chicken per year in the 1960s to the projected 92 pounds per person this year.

What Can Consumers Do About It?

For those who cook their own chicken and are worried about white striping, there’s no need to give up chicken just yet. The solution, at the moment, is relatively easy: Check out the meat before purchasing it. White stripes are easy to spot — the striations are parallel to the chicken muscle — and consumers can opt for selecting a piece of meat with no striping.