Chicken has often been sold to us as a healthier and leaner protein than other meats, but here is why it is actually not healthy at all.
Chicken, the most popular protein in the United States, is eaten more than any other meat by far, growing in the US from 28 pounds per capita in 1960 to a whopping 97.6 pounds in 2020. Much of this appeal is due to the association of chicken as being a lean protein that is lower in calories and with fewer health risks as beef, which has seen a decline in consumption in that same time frame along with pork.
In the beginning of the 20th century, chicken was mainly consumed in the springtime after eggs were hatched and there wasn’t much demand from consumers the rest of the year.
Eating chicken became somewhat more common during World War II, when beef and pork were rationed, but it wasn’t until the ‘50s and ‘60s with the industrialization of meat production and the genetic streamlining of the chicken’s body to increase the proportion of the highest-demand meat, namely breast, that it began to be included more in everyday American diets.
At the same time, the notion that chicken was a healthy, lean protein option became more widely accepted, driven by consumer concerns about saturated fat and cholesterol, and consolidation of the industry into fewer producers – plus, the massive government subsidies made it a more affordable option.
Chicken meat nutrition
Chicken meat contains less saturated fat than red meats like beef or pork, especially if the skin has been removed and depending on the cooking method. It also has fewer calories per ounce than beef, with chicken breasts being approximately 122 calories, or 15.81 grams versus the same amount of beef tenderloin at nearly 180 calories, or 23.32 grams. It is considered high in protein, niacin, selenium, and phosphorus.
The environmental costs of America’s appetite for chicken as a cheap protein source is also high, though. With chicken manure polluting waterways and the significant greenhouse gases emitted to grow their feed as well as their processing and released from their waste, the US chicken industry produces nearly 130 billion pounds of CO2 emissions each year, or the same amount as 12.37 million cars. The vast majority of the chicken people eat live short lives in crowded, stressful conditions, slaughtered at around 47 days of age and with bodies that are crippled from genetic manipulation to emphasize rapid growth.
Is chicken healthy?
Is chicken meat healthy enough to justify its status as such a popular protein, though? According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, both red meat and white meat raised LDL (otherwise known as “bad”) cholesterol about the same amount, and plant-based protein options did not, making chicken not a heart-healthy choice.
Of further concern are the carcinogens associated with chicken, particularly the federally recognized PhIP carcinogen linked to breast, prostate, and other cancers detected in all grilled chicken samples tested for a published study.
According to another published study, chicken meat is responsible for the most foodborne illness outbreaks, and that campylobacter and salmonella infections (which are caused by bacteria in chicken) are on the increase. Speaking of food-borne illness, a strain of E. coli commonly found in retail chicken products is likely linked to a wide range of infections in consumers, including urinary tract infections.
Chickens are also routinely fed antibiotics and are the biggest consumers of them on the planet, which contributes to human antibiotic-resistance and a potential superbug that would render antibiotics for treating infections obsolete.
Given all this, it may be time to consider plant-based versions to replace the chicken in your diet. With similar flavour and texture profiles, vegan chicken will also be full of protein but free of cholesterol, antibiotics, E. coli, and other health menaces. Additionally, they are abundant in fibre, which is completely missing from animal-sourced foods, with antioxidants and known protections against heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
With better outcomes for the planet, human health, and the animals, as well as a growing market of options in a multitude of forms, it’s never been easier to give up chicken without giving up the taste.
Original source: https://vegnews.com