This month the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) published a survey on American dieting habits and the results made something clear: Americans want to get in control of their health, but have they been misled? Instead of opting for a plant-based diet, consumers are running away from carbohydrates in search of more protein. Diet regimens like Paleo, Keto and Whole 30 stress low carb and high protein, with a lot of that protein coming from animal meat.
The cruel poultry industry that slaughters billions of chickens a year (just in the U.S.!) is, of course, happy to hear this. In fact, the poultry industry calls the survey an “opportunity for the poultry industry to promote itself as a health food and cement its status as a staple among younger, health-conscious consumers.”
But is this “lean protein” even good for our health?
Spoiler alert: the answer is no. In fact, chicken and eggs may be high in protein, but they’re also remarkably high in cholesterol which leads to heart disease–the leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States. Not to mention the impact raising animals for meat has on the environment! In fact, for environmental and health reasons, “lean meat” was omitted completely from a version of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines in 2015.
If these simple facts aren’t enough to make you swear off poultry in your diet, maybe this one will: as chicken consumption has risen in the past fifty years, factory farms have had to change the way they breed chickens in order to keep up with demand. This has resulted in a selectively bred broiler chicken whose breasts grow far faster and larger than normal, drastically impacting the quality of the chicken’s short life. In the two months between birth and slaughter a broiler chicken will likely suffer from White Striping and Wooden Breast, conditions similar to Muscular Dystrophy in humans. This unnatural muscle mass affects blood circulation and bone growth, making it difficult or even impossible for some chickens to walk. Many are left to die if they aren’t slaughtered first.
In addition to harming the animal, these painful ailments also affect the nutritional content of the final meat product. The meat from chickens suffering from these disorders has been shown to have exponentially more fat and far less protein than the chicken the United States produced 50 years ago, before factory farms.
All of this, and we don’t even need it for protein! As we’ve mentioned, animal protein actually causes health problems and weight gain. Luckily, we can get all the plant-based protein we need from beans, legumes, leafy greens, and whole grains.
If you’re worried about your health or thinking of dieting, remember that vegans and vegetarians have much lower rates of obesity than their meat-eating counterparts. In eliminating animal products like cruel, unnaturally grown chicken, you can make the healthy and ethical choice and save lives…maybe even your own.
For some bird-free, delicious and healthy recipes check out TryVeg.com.