At first glance, you might’ve thought this article was about Jack and Meg White and their awesome early 2000s band. Personally, I’m not ashamed to say I still rock out to “Seven Nation Army” in my car.
But today we’re talking about another kind of white stripe–the ones you find on chicken! Why in the world do some chicken breasts or cutlets have a white stripe running through the meat? What is it? And, most importantly, is it safe to eat? Here’s what we found out.
What Are Those White Stripes?
According to Todd J. Applegate Ph.D.—a professor and department head in the Department of Poultry Science at the University of Georgia—the white stripe in chicken breasts is a natural occurrence and it’s called “fast twitch fiber.”
“From a fundamental evolution standpoint, chickens evolved so that they could fly very quickly up into trees to roost at night,” Applegate explained to AllRecipes. “There’s not as much vascular or blood vessels [in the fast twitch fiber, so it’s] less dependent upon oxygen. That’s just chicken anatomy.”
The National Chicken Council co-signs Applegate’s claims, adding that “white striping is a quality factor in chicken breast meat” that is caused by fat deposits in the muscle during the bird’s growth and development.
“It is similar to marbling in red meat,” the National Chicken Council said, noting that between 12-43 percent of chickens can be affected by white striping.
Common Occurrence Or Problematic Trend?
However, the Human League suggested that white striping is becoming more common and they claim it’s problematic. They said that white stripes on chickens are a sign of an aggressive growing technique from poultry farmers.
“Standard factory-farmed chickens are bred to grow at an extreme pace, and live in cramped, often dirty conditions. White striping is a muscle disease that is reported to impact 50-96 percent of fast-growing chickens, and is a consequence of fast growth rates,” read the Humane League’s report.
A 2016 study from the University of Arkansas and Texas A&M University also discovered that white stripes do affect consumer chicken choices, as most were more likely to buy chicken without it.
Are White Stripes Safe?
However, according to the National Chicken Council, white stripes are completely safe.
“White striping is not a food safety issue nor does it affect the welfare of the chicken,” said the National Chicken Council. “‘Slow growing’ birds, organic birds, and free-range birds can all have white striping, too.”
Applegate agreed, claiming that white striping isn’t bad for you, and there’s no safety concern or disease issue. “It’s just more about appearance,” he said. “We don’t usually think of marbling in chicken meat.”