Stripes Aren’t Only On Zebras, You May Find Them On Chicken Breasts Too
by Jocelyn Ngo
Have you ever noticed thin white stripes between the fibers on your chicken breasts? Have you ever occasionally noticed a chicken breast that is a little tougher or firmer to chew? If so, you have stumbled upon chicken breasts coming from chicken with two different types of muscle disorders.
Since chicken breasts have increased in popularity, surpassing beef in 2010, due to the movement to healthier diets, there has been an increase in demand for chicken breast over beef and pork, Muscular diseases called White striping and Woody breasts have recently become a larger concern to consumers, secondary chicken manufacturers, and chicken growers. White striations laced between muscle fibers in chicken breasts and unappealing yellowish color with firmness upon compression occur in birds that are bred to grow at a rapid rate to feed the growing population and demand for lean meat. For consumers, this chicken muscle disorder affects texture and nutritional content of the chicken breasts. For secondary chicken manufacturers, these myopathies negatively affect the processing yields and finished product quality. For chicken growers, successfully mass producing large chickens from the traditional 70 days at 3.08lbs to 47 days at 6.24lbs to keep up with demands is negatively affecting quality of the raw commodity.
Woody breast and White striping usually occur within the same breast. While white striping affects the appearance and nutritional content of the chicken breast, woody breast mainly affects texture. Woody breast can be detected when one compresses force down upon the breast and experience a hard, “woody”, texture. Frequently, woody breast will show a ridge on the surface of the descending end, a yellowish tint, and a viscous clear fluid on the chicken.
White Striping in chickens is a recent concern, with oldest studies dating back to only 2009. Simply put, White striping has occurred mainly in chickens that have higher growth rates. Because of the increasingly high demand for this lean meat due to nutritional factors such as higher protein or price, farmers have chosen to grow breeds with high growth weight and breast yields. White striping has been characterized with muscle degeneration. Consumers can mistake this problem as something comparable to meat marbling, like in beef. White striping is however different because chickens do not normally store fat between their muscles like beef do.
Because low quality chicken with white striping and woody breast is being produced at the beginning of the supply chain, all products that the chicken is being used thereafter are negatively affected. For chicken product manufacturers, white striping affects texture and product yield. Stiffness of the muscles and intramuscular striations of fat between the muscles cause decreased water holding capacity and protein functionality. As a result, manufacturers who use marinades in processing to add flavor and/or other functional uses, are resulting in lower meat yields and quality. Lower meat yields, affect the quality of the product as well as profit. For the consumer, some may notice a difference in texture after cooking and the obvious appearance of white striping on a chicken breast. Also, because of white stripping, the chicken breast may not be as nutritionally beneficial since the fat content in the breast may double while also decreasing the protein content.
White striping and Woody breast are negatively affecting the poultry industry by misconceiving consumers, affecting processors meat yields, and deteriorating finished product quality. White striping on chicken breasts occur when striations parallel to the muscle fibers of fat appear on the surface of the breast. Although the National Chicken council claims that this phenomenon only affects a “small percentage of chicken”, a study sampling 285 breasts found that 95% of chicken breast sampled had white striping, causing other researchers to look into this problem. Woody Breast imparts a tough texture and reduction in water holding capacity in chicken breasts. Spreading this knowledge of these phenomenon will help consumers choose the right quality of chicken when purchasing their groceries and for manufacturers be to aware of profit loss for the reduction of yield caused by a decreased water binding capacity.