For the past several decades, we’ve been told that there’s no healthier meat than chicken. While this is still believed to be true, a number of studies published within the last ten years have brought alarming information to the public eye. Chickens today contain a staggering 266 percent more schmaltz (fat) than they did in the early 1970s, while their protein content is only about 63 percent of what it used to be back then.
How Chickens Became Fat
If you use schmaltz for frying, this means that you’ll get nearly three times more of it from one bird than your mother or grandmother would forty or fifty years ago. This increase in fat levels is a direct result of the changes that have happened to the chicken farming process in the last few decades. Chickens are a lot like humans: physical inactivity and poor diet equals weight gains and accumulation of unhealthy fats.
Chicken farming nowadays is much different than it used to be. The majority of chickens in the US today belong to the hybrid Cornish breed. They are kept in cages, fed with corn and soy with low nutritional value, and often treated with antibiotics that help promote unnatural growth. Their health and the quality of their meat have both suffered greatly as a result.
Back in the 1950s, 1960s, and even the 1970s, chickens weren’t raised in cages, but were allowed to run free around the farm. They had to search for food, so their diet consisted of seeds, herbs, and worms. The need to hunt for food and the fact that they were roaming around the farm meant that they got a lot of much-needed exercise. All of this contributed to the low schmaltz levels found in chicken at the time.
How Chicken Farming Has Changed
Eating chicken used to be somewhat of a luxury as late as 1960s, but then the mass consumption came and took its toll on the chicken farming itself. Farmers were now paid significantly less per bird, so they had to get more chickens. More chickens meant less space for each of them, and because there were so many of them, they had to be kept in controlled conditions and fed accordingly.
Even organic chicken is not nearly as healthy as it’s believed to be. Organic chicken farming is not much different than regular chicken farming: chickens are still kept in small spaces, their feeding process is completely automated, and they don’t get as much exercise as they used to once. The schmaltz content is only a tad lower than it is in non-organic chicken, which is attributed solely to their healthier diet.