Jan. 1, 2000 (with updates)
THE ONLINE rumor du jour, a viral text bluntly titled "Boycott KFC" (see below), urges us to think twice before buying a meal at KFC restaurants lest we find ourselves consuming a product shockingly different from what we've been led to expect.
The product may look like fried chicken and taste like fried chicken — and it is, at least, fried, thank God — but it's not really chicken, the message asserts. It is, in fact, a "genetically manipulated organism" so far removed from the real animal that KFC is legally forbidden to call it chicken. And this is the reason, we are told, that Kentucky Fried Chicken, Inc. foreshortened its brand name to the acronym "KFC."
Executives at KFC headquarters are aghast that anyone would take this seriously. When I asked KFC director of public affairs Michael Tierney if there's any truth at all to the allegations, he snapped back: "Of course not. Any thinking adult would know it's absolutely absurd."
See also: Man Finds 'Brain' in Box of KFC Chicken
Well, all right. But for the sake of perspective we are talking about the Internet, where, for example, tens of thousands of credulous users besieged Honda's corporate website a few years back demanding the free automobile promised to them in a forwarded email they'd received. There's a lesson in this for Mr. Tierney, I believe.
'Chicken that's not chicken'
Colette Janson-Sand, Associate Professor of Nutrition at the University of New Hampshire (where research proving the artificiality of KFC's products was allegedly conducted), says her department has fielded a flock of phone calls about the "chicken that's not chicken" rumor, a few of which she described as "hysterical." The University wasted no time publishing a rebuttal on its website.
Back at KFC, Tierney was quick to point out (and it is easily verified) that although the company dumped its "Kentucky Fried Chicken" brand over a decade ago to emphasize product variety, it still uses the "forbidden" word ubiquitously in its advertising and in-store signage. Remember the recent TV commercial jingle, "We Do Chicken Right!"? That was KFC. The company's website makes reference to chicken on virtually every page.
'Genetically manipulated organisms'
In spite of the fact that one of its two main allegations is so effortlessly disproven, the "mutant chicken" rumor as exemplified in the viral email below continues to enjoy a phenomenal circulation (see following page for a six-legged variant):
Subject: Boycott KFC
Dec. 27, 1999
KFC has been a part of our American traditions for many years. Many people, day in and day out, eat at KFC religiously. Do they really know what they are eating?
During a recent study of KFC done at the University of New Hampshire, they found some very upsetting facts. First of all, has anybody noticed that just recently the company has changed their name? Kentucky Fried Chicken has become KFC. Does anybody know why? We thought the real reason was because of the "FRIED" food issue. It's not. The reason why they call it KFC is because they can not use the word chicken anymore. Why? KFC does not use real chickens. They actually use genetically manipulated organisms.
These so called "chickens" are kept alive by tubes inserted into their bodies to pump blood and nutrients throughout their structure. They have no beaks, no feathers, and no feet. Their bone structure is dramatically shrunk to get more meat out of them. This is great for KFC because they do not have to pay so much for their production costs. There is no more plucking of the feathers or the removal of the beaks and feet.
The government has told them to change all of their menus so they do not say chicken anywhere. If you look closely you will notice this. Listen to their commercials, I guarantee you will not see or hear the word chicken. I find this matter to be very disturbing. I hope people will start to realize this and let other people know.
Please forward this message to as many people as you can. Together we make KFC start using real chicken again.