Our Obsession with White Meat Has Made Chickens Unrecognizable

Our Obsession with White Meat Has Made Chickens Unrecognizable

If my two-year-old nephew was capable of comprehending what was happening to produce his beloved Chicken Nuggets, I know EXACTLY what he would say – YUCKY!

Yes, Jude, yucky indeed. America is genetically engineering it’s poultry to keep up with an almost insatiable demand, and it doesn’t look pretty. More from the Washington Post:


Chicken is the most commonly eaten animal in this country, surpassing beef or pork. And with dietary recommendations that Americans eat less red meat, the obsession with chicken—which has lasted more than 30 years already—shows no sign of stopping.

Maintaining that appetite, though, is already pushing the bounds of what’s biologically possible—and perhaps what’s humane.

The average American eats more than four times as much chicken today as he or she did in the early 1900s, according to data from the USDA. Currently, that amounts to more than 80 pounds per year.

Our collective appetite for chicken isn’t sustainable—not given how much of the protein we demand today, and, much less, the amount we’re slated to gobble up down the road. And chickens—their genetic makeup, anyway—will likely be forced to adjust.

“If people keep eating more and more chicken, chickens will probably have to get even bigger,” said Dr. Michael Lilburn, a professor at Ohio State University’s Poultry Research Center. “We’ ll have to increase the proportion of breast meat in each bird, too.”

Lilburn’s estimations are hardly revolutionary. Chickens, after all, have been getting bigger—and breastier—for decades on the heels of inflated demand.

That’s because Americans mostly want white meat, so much of it, in fact, that we have long had to export all the extra dark meat that’s left over.

And the poultry industry has had to adjust to keep up.

New technologies in the 1940s, which allowed for better nutrition and disease control, as well as improved production management, helped the industry produce broiler chickens more efficiently. Later, advancements in both packaging and transportation further facilitated the growth of commercial poultry companies.

But largely the industry has made do by selecting for certain economically advantageous genetic traits. Specifically bigger birds with bigger white-meat-filled breasts.

A study published last fall chronicled the troubling changes seen in broiler chickens over the past 60 years. Birds, which once weighed just over 900 grams (or roughly 2 pounds) when full grown, now weigh more than 9 pounds.

That is pretty disgusting. Americans can be so gluttonous. I would rather have a leaner, meaner chicken for a real source of white meat, wouldn’t you? I guess I have always preferred dark meat, so until some real changes in the way chickens are raised, I stand with Jude.


Written by Katie McGuire. Follow Katie on Twitter @GOPKatie


Writer, Blogger. Political aficionado. Addicted to all levels of government campaigns.

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