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Lenoir chicken ruffles some UNC students’ feathers

While many seek out fresh food in Lenoir Dining Hall, some students are concerned about the threat of fowl play.

Throughout the past month two students have posted pictures on the “Overheard at UNC” Facebook page of fried chicken served with feathers still present on top.

Senior journalism major Sarah Hoehn posted an image of her memorable lunch at Lenoir on Feb. 6 not because she wanted to advertise the eating conditions, but because she and her friends found the picture amusing.

Upon noticing the feathers, Hoehn attributed the meal to an uncharacteristic mistake, and proceeded to throw out the chicken and continue eating.

Despite the feathery surprise, Hoehn does not blame the staff. She continues to return to Lenoir and was not disturbed by the event.

“I don’t think it’s a reflection on UNC’s staff because they work hard to give us quality food and this was just a mistake,” she said.

A few days later another student posted a similar picture on Facebook of an otherwise appealing meal ruined by a feather.

Extension Food Safety Specialist Dr. Ben Chapman, a professor at N.C. State University, advises that there is no harm done if feathers are present, as long as the chicken has been cooked to a safe, internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chapman said although a feather isn’t aesthetically pleasing, it’s not a health concern.

“It might look gross, but it’s not any more or less risky than a chicken without a feather because bones in a chicken wing are the same physical hazard as a feather,” he said.

According to Department of Agriculture, Grade A chickens have plump, meaty bodies and clean skin, free of bruises, broken bones, feathers, cuts and discoloration.

Grading is done voluntarily by food suppliers but there is an agreement between Sysco and Inland Seafood that UNC be provided with Grade A chicken, so the expectation is that the chickens have no feathers when bought.

Carolina Dining Services spokesman Scott Weir said extensive inspections take place to ensure the Grade A standards are met for the 18,000 meals prepared each day, but human error can still occur.

“Prep staff inspect the raw chicken prior and during the preparation process, cook staff give a visual inspection as they prepare the food for service and take final temperature prior to service and service staff also give visual inspection as they are serving to the customer,” Weir said.

If the requirements are not met, the food is tossed out.

Weir said CDS was not informed of these incidents until recently and was not aware chicken standards were not met, but is now giving chicken a second look before serving.

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