1 of America's food staples is going through a terrifying change

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'Woody' Chicken Breasts Could Hurt the Industry

The food industry has been breeding larger chickens to meet rising demand for white meat, and it's resulting in an unwanted side effect.

A growing number of these larger chickens are suffering from what the industry calls "woody breast," Kelsey Gee reports at the Wall Street Journal.

It means the breast fillets are laced with fibers that make the meat chewier and somewhat "gummy," Gee reports.

"It is more hard, and also more elastic, so you have to put more energy in to chew on this kind of meat," Massimiliano Petracci, a food scientist at Italy's University of Bologna, told the Journal.

The issue isn't catastrophic — yet.

Woody breast only appears in about 5% to 10% of boneless breast fillets worldwide, according to Petracci.

Over time, this percentage could rise, and it could result in diminishing returns for chicken producers and chewier chicken for consumers.

"Industry analysts say woody breast eventually could cut into producers' revenues if breast meat has to be sold at a steep discount or customers demand that the companies raise smaller birds," Gee reports.

Poultry processor Sanderson Farms said it discovered the emergence of woody breast in its products following complaints from restaurant and retail customers, according to the Journal.

The company now requires processing plant employees to feel every one of its chicken breasts to determine whether it has woody breast. The breasts that have the affliction are sold at a discount.

Read the full story by the Journal here.

Related: Learn more about the lives of cage-free chickens:

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1 of America's food staples is going through a terrifying change
Cage-free chickens stand in a fenced pasture on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
A chicken struts inside a fenced pasture on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Eggs laid by cage-free chickens sit in a holder after being sorted by Francis Blake on his organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Francis Blake sorts eggs laid by cage-free chickens on his organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Francis Blake talks about his cage-free chicken operation on his organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Francis Blake watches his cage-free chickens roam in a fenced pasture on his organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Cage-free chickens walk in a fenced pasture on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
A warning sign is seen on a door in a chicken house on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
A cage-free chicken looks out at the egg sorting area on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Cage-free chickens walk in a fenced pasture on the Francis Blake organic farm, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, near Waukon, Iowa. Blake gathers an average of 2,500 dozen eggs a week from his flock of 5,000 cage-free hens. An increasing customer demand for more eggs from chickens free from cages has left U.S. egg farmers with the question of whether to spend millions of dollars to convert or build cage-free barns. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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