America’s chicken supply is suffering from widespread disease thanks to breeding practices that are used to make the birds grow rapidly without any concern for their welfare.

According to a new report released by The Humane League, more than 99 percent of store-brand chickens in the United States have a muscle disease known as white striping. This is a type of muscle myopathy that occurs when the animals are bred for rapid growth. When their bodies aren’t able to keep up with such unnaturally quick growth, they replace muscle tissue with fibrous tissue and fat. This reduces the chicken’s nutritional value, raising the fat content by as much as 224 percent and dropping protein by nine percent. It can also cause problems in the animals with oxygen and blood flow.

It is easy to see white striping for yourself when you are shopping. These fatty tissues can be seen as visible white lines within the meat. It can even be found in organic chicken as there are no standards that companies who label their chicken as organic from breeding for fast growth.

The Humane League reached this concerning finding following an investigation earlier this summer of the chickens sold on supermarket shelves. Some of the supermarkets that were involved in the investigation included Costco, ALDI, Giant Eagle, Publix, Walmart, Target, Trader Joe’s and Kroger. In some supermarkets, 100 percent of the chicken sampled had white striping. All of the 16 supermarkets that were analyzed had white striping in their store-brand chicken breast filets. The biggest offenders were Meijer, BJ’s and Walmart.

The Humane League’s president, David Coman-Hidy, said that these findings should raise alarm bells for all consumers. It’s a problem that has grown dramatically in recent years, he said, with just five percent of chickens affected only ten years ago; five years later, that figure stood at 96 percent.

He stated: “This disease is a visual reminder of the terrible suffering of these weeks-old animals and the control that these factory farms have over our food supply. It’s nearly impossible for Americans to find an alternative to this diseased meat.”

The Humane League also pointed out a 2018 study that showed that half of shoppers indicated they were unwilling to buy chicken with white striping. Now, however, they do not have any choice because it makes up the majority of what is found on store shelves.

Broiler chickens live a short and miserable life

Broiler chickens that are raised for meat in the U.S. are bred to gain weight quickly. This reduces the amount of food and water that are needed before they are slaughtered. However, the process can cause them to grow so quickly that they are unable to hold up their own body weight, with muscle being replaced by fibrous tissue and fat.

The Humane League explained the suffering that broiler chickens go through during their lifetimes when they are factory farmed. The air within the farms is so thick with ammonia that they can hardly keep their eyes open, while waste covers the floor, causing burns to their skin. The weight of their engorged muscles can cause their legs to buckle and break, making them eventually die of thirst because they are unable to move toward water. Even though the birds are sent to slaughter at six or seven weeks of age, many of them will succumb to disease before that thanks to their stressful environments and the poor conditions in which they are kept.

It’s a painful reminder of just how damaging profit-driven breeding practices are to life on Earth. Nevertheless, chicken remains the top protein consumed in the U.S., and Americans consume more chicken than any other country in the world.

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