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News Section Icon Published 1/30/2020

This month, more than 5.5 million viewers of France2—one of France’s largest television networks—witnessed a stirring piece exploring the staggering frequency of muscle disorders found in chicken breast. Disorders like white striping and spaghetti meat that not only deteriorate the quality and nutritional content of the meat, but indicate lives of pain and suffering for the birds it comes from. 

Compassion USA Executive Director Rachel Dreskin and Head of Public Engagement Nina Farley joined journalists in Bluffton, Georgia—home of White Oak Pastures—to discuss the dangers factory farming poses to chickens raised for meat, and just what it means for consumers. Spoiler alert: it’s nasty. 

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Though hidden behind factory farm doors for years, the disturbingly-dubbed “spaghetti meat”disgusting phenomenon resulting from selectively breeding birds to grow so massive, so quicklyis now front and center on store shelves. 

Such dangerously fast growth has disastrous animal welfare consequences: Chickens often struggle to walk and can suffer from leg deformities, respiratory problems, and heart attacks. Even worse, they may be in chronic pain from the time they are just two weeks old. Witnessing that constant discomfort with no ability to address it takes a toll on farmers, too. According to former chicken producer and Compassion USA ally, Craig Watts, he left the industry after growing frustrated and disheartened by what consumers expected versus the reality chickens faced behind closed doors.

Spaghetti meat—much like its equally nasty cousin, white striping—is a direct result of degenerative muscle disorders. In short, when the muscle tissues are forced to grow too quickly the body can’t provide oxygen and nutrients fast enough, causing the muscle to breakdown and separate turning into this thin, noodle-like structure. That results in a breakdown of easily separated muscle fibers, creating the characteristic spaghetti texture.

The bad news for consumers: The meat resulting from chickens who suffer from white striping and spaghetti meat is associated with less protein, in addition to higher fat for meat affected by white striping.

Spaghetti Meat CIWF USA
Spaghetti meat; the underside of a chicken breast afflicted with severe muscle disorder.
Two In Package
Two chicken breasts with prominent white striping still in the package.

The good news for consumers: It doesn’t have to be this way. White Oak Pastures owner and operator Will Harris chooses only to raise chickens with healthier genetics, that allow them grow slower and not suffer from these diseases. That means a significantly improved quality of life for chickens and a higher quality product for consumers. 

The unnatural muscle disorders afflicting chickens are unquestionably inhumane and increasingly unacceptable to consumers, and Compassion USA, alongside allies like Will and Craig, is working hard to put a stop to it. 

However, through our Food Business program and our experiences sitting in boardrooms with some of the biggest names in the food industry, we can tell you this: Food companies know that fast growth is a problem. But many have told us directly that they won’t commit to healthier genetics until customers tell them that enough is enough.  

Use your voice and demonstrate you won’t stand for this unnecessary suffering by signing your name to our petition demanding food business commit to sourcing chickens with healthier genetics