Written by Wonyoung Lee ('22)
Edited by Hannah Ngo ('21)
Have you ever had chicken that felt terribly overcooked or undercooked and immediately thought “How cheap is this meat?” or “How terrible is the cook?” A Washington Post article called “Fast-Growth Chickens Produce New Industry Woe: ‘Spaghetti Meat’” explains that the Chicken industry is investing $200 million to solve the woody and spaghetti chicken breast problem. 
After a great boom in genetic selection and breeding operations for commercially raised chickens in the 1970s, the average chicken growth rate increased exponentially. Researches have compared the average growth rate of commercially raised chickens from the late 1950s to early 2000s and figured out that the amount of time for full growth shortened and shortened and eventually became 56 days in the early 2000s. Also, not only did the chickens grow faster, but they grew bigger breast muscles to capitalize on the higher ratio of desirable meat to body mass. This rapid growth in commercially raised chicken and genetic selection benefited the chicken industry by increasing supply while decreasing the amount of feed needed per chicken.
However, this seemingly beneficial phenomenon steadily became the “Industry Woe.” The chicken breasts from these chickens when cooked were becoming widely unfavored by customers. Customers complained that either the chicken was too tough - a problem this article calls the “woody breast” - or that the chicken was too squishy, the problem called “spaghetti meat.” According to the article, “Meat scientists [say] they suspect the rapid growth rate of commercially raised chickens may lead breast muscle tissue to outgrow the oxygen supply provided by chickens’ developing circulatory systems, at which point muscle fibers can degrade. That can alter the density and texture of the meat.” After encountering these types of feedback from customers, companies such as the burger chain Wendy’s and Panera Bread decided to switch their partners to either slower-growing poultry companies or smaller chicken companies.
To address the concerns, some chicken industry officials have argued that “their high-tech breeding operations eventually will be able to minimize the problems” but also mentioned that “The process … is likely to take another few years.” The article suggests another way that this can be addressed, which is bioelectrical technology, technology often used in the seafood industry to “help detect abnormalities.”
According to Specialty Food Association, bioelectrical technology, or bioelectrical impedance analysis, “uses electrical currents... to provide instant freshness data for tested fish. The tool measures the rate at which the cells inside fish change over time, depending on storage conditions.” The device of this technology which is the “patent-pending, noninvasive Certified Quality Reader” shows a number from 0 (worst condition) to 100 (best condition) that indicate “freshness.”
Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis completely changed the seafood industry. The “ability to prove a fish’s quality with actual data” through the CQR numbers allowed the sellers to be able to not only attract consumers but also “[help] large seafood producers with purchasing, pricing, and eventual distribution by determining whether the fish should be sold fresh, frozen, or smoked and the best method of transportation that should be used to get seafood to market.” If this kind of technology can help detect the level of chicken breast muscle degradation, thus its density and texture, it will also change the chicken industry forever and we, consumers, will be able to pick the best chicken breast.
 Bunge J. Fast-Growth Chickens Produce New Industry Woe: ‘Spaghetti Meat’.The Wall Street Journal. 2019.
Robinson F. Seafood Analytics Debuts Tool to Verify Fish Freshness, Quality. [Internet] [Mar 15 2019] Available from:  https://www.specialtyfood.com/news/article/seafood-analytics-debuts-tool-verify-seafood-freshness-quality/
Image 1: same as source 
Image 2: Available from: https://www.yellowblissroad.com/baked-chicken-breasts/
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