The Major Issue with Buying Chicken Breasts

What’s the number one most popular cut of meat in the US? Chicken breasts. The average American eats chicken around 10 times a month, on average. And what’s not to love? It’s lean, easy to cook and affordable, right? Well, our obsession with chicken also comes with a dark side: chicken breasts are incredibly unsustainable.

The Trouble with Chicken Breasts

Out of the 10 times the average American eats chicken monthly, eight of those times they choose chicken breasts. Only once or twice a month do they reach for dark thigh meat.

While that may not seem like a problem at your grocery store, where chicken carcasses appear to be perpetually available and well stocked, it’s a disaster in the grand scheme of things. Our overwhelming preference for white meat means that shocking amounts of very edible protein are going to waste.

It takes a lot of resources to raise a chicken and get it to your kitchen, even factory farmed chickens (which you should avoid buying at all costs). Wasting precious resources — like water and fuel — on raising chickens and only consuming their breasts  is unacceptable in our current era of environmental turmoil.

Chicken Breasts

We didn’t always obsess over chicken breasts.

In the 50s, Americans still primarily bought whole chickens. It wasn’t until new federal inspections came into being in the 60s that suppliers realized they could make more money (and salvage more passable meat) by cutting lesser-quality carcasses into pieces, therefore reducing their own profitless waste.

As chickens became more buxom with factory farming, these amorphous white slabs of meat became popular for their perceived cleanliness, their lack of squeamish qualities and their tenderness.

And health marketing only bolstered the chicken breast. This is thanks to the low-fat craze of the 80s and 90s, which vilified all forms of fat, including dark meat chicken. We’ve been inundated with the idea that we need to reduce calories, reduce fat, and avoid cholesterol at all costs, and chicken breasts are a palatable way to attain all those hyped up health ideals.

But now that chicken breasts have become such a standard of the American diet, we’re left with a huge imbalance. Farmers are killing and cutting up chickens, mostly only for their breast meat. They throw away a shocking amount of the rest of the animal as fewer and fewer families cook whole chickens anymore, never mind chicken quarters.

If you are going to eat meat, the most sustainable thing to do is to consume the whole animal. Stop taking animal protein for granted. And consider making a dent in our nation’s massive food waste issue by taking a break from chicken breasts (and boycotting all factory farmed chicken). Opt for any of the other tasty pastured of grass-fed cuts you can get locally. Your butcher (and the planet) will thank you.

Even better: skip the chickens altogether and get healthy protein from plants! It’s even more sustainable and comes with a side of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

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Alexandra Richards

Thank you.

GMS G1 days ago

Why would anyone eat a corps

Why would anyone eat a corps?

Dennis H
Dennis H1 days ago

A vegan diet is not natural, actually -- you will die of Vitamin B12 deficiency if you consume no animal products, hence, vegans MUST supplement or die. This is why, before 100 years ago, there were no vegans as Vitamin B12 hadn't been discovered -- anyone following that diet died. That said, animals to be consumed must be treated reverently whilst in our care. All life relies upon death -- is plant life lesser than animal life, intrinsically? Still, I greatly look forward to meat made with animal cells not animals.

Dennis H
Dennis H1 days ago


Ganaisha C
Ganaisha Calvin1 days ago

Food waste is one of America's dumbest problem

Helene L
Helene L1 days ago

The major issue to me is the pain and fear those poor birds go through in factory farms. Go vegan or if you must eat meat, chop at your local farmer.

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn2 days ago


Peggy B
Peggy B2 days ago


Diane E
Diane E2 days ago

Waste is hideous.

Janet B
Janet B2 days ago