Recent articles have highlighted a concern in chickens known as “white striping”, in which white lines can be observed in chicken meat purchased fresh at the grocery counter.
The research in question has been conducted with birds that grow much bigger than they do here in Canada. The data references birds processed at 59, 61, and 63 days of age whereas in Canada, chickens are not grown to be as big and are most commonly processed at around 35 days of age and weigh about 2 kilograms. We do see some incidence of breast meat “striping” in Canada, but these are likely not as frequent, because our birds do not grow as big.
It’s important to note that white striping and other similar conditions present no food safety risk and chicken remains a nutritious choice. A recent nutrient analysis conducted by Silliker labs shows that chicken is a healthy, lean source of protein.
“As part of an overall healthy diet that includes a variety of both animal and plant-based foods, Canadian chicken remains a great source of nutrition. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, not only do I recommend chicken as a healthy option, I will continue to do so and not change my advice in light of this report. All cuts of chicken, both light and dark meat, are a source of important nutrients such as protein, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and B vitamins such as B1, B2, and B12 to name a few which, are needed for health by all ages.”
– Doug Cook, RDN MPH CDE
Doug has written a blog with more details about this issue (at our request, and we’ve compensated him) you can read that here.
It’s true: Chickens grow faster today than they did in the past. However, this is due to breeding programs and feed efficiencies. In fact, the mortality rates, lameness issues, condemnation rates, and ascites concerns in chicken have all seen a marked decrease at the same time that growth rates have increased.1, 2, 3 And it’s important to note what is not making chickens grow faster: hormones or steroids. These have been illegal in chicken production in Canada since the 1960s.
Since birds are more efficient at converting feed to muscle, less land is needed, less manure is produced, fewer fossil fuels are used, and fewer emissions are generated, resulting in reduced environmental impacts.
Canada has a mandatory, enforced, and auditable national animal care program, which is based on the National Farm Animal Care Council’s Code of practice. It was developed in consultation with over 40 stakeholders, and support for its implementation has come from animal care organizations, veterinary associations, industry professionals and more.