Engineered Chickens

I tried to fry some chicken recently and couldn’t believe, as I watched it cook, how much water seemed to seep out of the chicken. Towards the end I felt I wasn’t frying it, but boiling it in its own water.
What happened to the scrawny but tasty chicken of my youth?
Well, I found out reading around in a book called the “End of Food” by Paul Roberts.
Today’s chicken is a genetic freak:
Breakthroughs in genetics let commercial breeders…manipulate most of the factors that govern a bird’s growth, from the tendency to distribute, or partition muscle mass into the break region… to the efficiency of the digestive tract (which lets the bird convert grain into muscle faster). The resulting broiler was a walking meat machine: twice as big as its 1975 predecessor, with breast portions weighting more than a half a pound each, and the ability to reach this sumolike stature with freakish speed. Whereas a 1970s-era broiler needed ten weeks to reach slaughter weigh, today’s model does it in forty day, which means an enterprising chicken farmer can raise two more crops each year and thus increase his annual output by 40 percent. (69)
Not only is today’s grocery store chicken “abstracted” from its origins by being all neatly packed up with separate parts available in multi-packs (where can one find a hint of the original shape in a multipack of chicken legs), the chicken from which these parts were abstracted have been further abstracted from their original “chicken-ness.” Today’s chicken is not grown; it’s engineered.
We have more chicken that ever. But once again more is less. The speed with which chickens are engineered to grow does not allow the cells of breast muscles to fully form. Further, breast muscle is “fast-twitch” muscle, and when a chicken is killed these fast twitch muscles twitch and produce, by doing so, lactic acid. The amount of lactic acid produced by today’s breast heavy chicken is enormous and damaging to the quality of the meat. Companies attempt to deal with this problem by pumping the chickens with salts and phosphates to make them retain….water.
This so called “water enhancement” helps with the problem of lactic acid and increases the meat’s weight from 10% to 30%.
I have a hard time looking at a chicken breast in the same way when I know that the speed with which they are produced sometimes does not allow for capillaries to bring blood to the breast with the result that “’an area of muscle tissue actually dies.’”
I believe that is called “necrosis.”

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