Hoaxes & Rumors

Dissecting the KFC “Fake Chicken” Rumors

Dissecting the KFC “Fake Chicken” Rumors
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Does KFC use “genetically manipulated organisms” instead of “real” chicken, as a common claim on the internet states? Another rumor holds that the company must use the name “KFC” because it can no longer use the word “chicken” in its name.

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History

For the past several years, photos of “naked” chickens, referred to as genetically manipulated organisms, have circulated – and have been associated with KFC. The following caption is an example of assertions made against KFC for decades.

Horrible Fact about KFC:

KFC has been a part of 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.

2014 Graphic

The graphic below, which is a screenshot of a mobile web page, circulated with greater frequency starting in 2014. It shows a portion of the full text above.

KFC-text

Addressing the accusations

Where do KFC Chickens Come From?

KFC purchases chicken from various suppliers around the world. Whenever one of these suppliers is found to mistreat animals or violate safety protocols, KFC often bears the brunt of the backlash. Yum! is a major supplier of KFC chicken. The company also supplies Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and others.

Yum discussed GMO’s on their website, on a page which has since disappeared. You can still view that page here. It was stated that GMO’s are used in the U.S.

In North America, GMOs are generally accepted, whereas in Europe consumers are more resistant to GMOs. Where resistance to GMOs exists, Yum! Restaurants International requires all its suppliers to provide non-GMO ingredients. For example:

In the U.K., the Netherlands, Germany and Australia, we do not source from suppliers who use GMOs in chicken. In China, we follow Chinese regulations regarding GMO ingredients and require statements from suppliers regarding their GMO content.

Yum has since moved their GMO discussion to a different page, where they state:

Perceptions of the risks and benefits of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) vary from market to market around the globe and we strictly follow all government regulations wherever we operate. In North America, GMOs are generally accepted, whereas in Europe consumers are more resistant to GMOs. Where resistance to GMOs exists, we require our suppliers to provide non-GMO ingredients. For example, in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia, we do not source from suppliers who use GMOs in chicken. In China, we follow government regulations regarding GMO ingredients and require statements from suppliers to communicate regarding their GMO content.

Yum Brands has not been without its share of controversy. GreenAmerica.org describes Yum! as facing “criticism for lacking transparency with regard to GMOs in its food and has failed to address the environmental damages.” The company has also been involved in a food safety scare in China which has affected KFC sales in that country. That scandal involved accusations that Yum Brands purchased raw chicken containing antibiotics at higher levels than permitted.

The Photo

A popular “naked chicken” photo is often circulated with the rumors above as an example of genetically-modified chickens. The photo, however, originates from a Reuters slide show dating back to 2002. You can see the Reuters photo here. It contains the caption:

Two featherless chickens peck around in some grass May 22, 2002 at the Hebrew University in Rehovot. Israeli scientists at the Agriculture department of the university have genetically engineered bare-skinned chickens as part of a research project to develop succulent, low fat poultry that is environmentally friendly. The naked chicken, as the bird has been dubbed, would also save poultry farmers large amounts of money on ventilation to prevent their chickens from overheating.
REUTERS/Havakuk Levison

fake-chicken

Photo credit: Reuters/Havakuk Levison

Note that the photo is well over 10 years old, and is not connected in any way to KFC or its suppliers. A similar, digitally-edited version of the photo above has also been occasionally circulated with the hoax. See comments below for info on that image.

FDA

The FDA has a complete section regarding information on genetically engineered animals. It states that genetically-engineered animal products do not require special labeling:

FDA does not require that food from GE animals be labeled to indicate that it comes from GE animals…Food marketers may voluntarily label their foods as coming from GE or non-GE animals, as long as the labeling is truthful and not misleading.

University of New Hampshire Study

The accusations about KFC cite a non-existent study from the University of New Hampshire which allegedly exposes KFC with “upsetting facts.”

The University, however, has denied any connection to the allegations about KFC. They posted the following response on their website:

An active Internet hoax, of the urban legend type, falsely claims that KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) is using genetically engineered organisms instead of chickens. The hoax includes reference to an unspecified study of KFC done at the University of New Hampshire and there is no such research or study that was done here.

When you read the message carefully you can see it has all the hallmarks of a hoax. It starts with a well known subject (KFC) and a timely topic (genetic modification of animals and plants) and then spins out a story that progresses from possible, to improbable, and finally to impossible. As an extra touch of false verisimilitude, there is the vague reference to a study at the University of New Hampshire!

Changing name to “KFC” from “Kentucky Fried Chicken”

The assertion that “Kentucky Fried Chicken” changed its name to “KFC” because it can no longer use the word “chicken” in its name is false. In fact, the KFC website and menu are rife with the word “chicken.”

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The actual change from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” to “KFC” was largely in part to de-emphasize the word “fried.” Although the official name change was announced in 1991, the franchise had been referred to as “KFC” for years before the move was official. Business Week reported the name change in February 1991:

Kentucky Fried Chicken. Its powerful brand name summons up images of white-bearded Colonel Sanders, steaming fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy. But to many health-conscious Americans, it also stands for cholesterol, sodium, and fat. Hence a paradoxical problem for Kentucky Fried Chicken Corp.: As an alternative to beef, chicken consumption is soaring. But fear of frying has helped curb the company’s growth while demand jumps for grilled, broiled, and baked poultry.

So, the Pepsico Inc. unit has decided to change its image and its menu. Under the leadership of Kyle Craig, president of the U. S. business, and his boss, Kentucky Fried Chief Executive John M. Cranor III, the chain is trying to reposition itself in consumers’ eyes in hopes of attracting more careful eaters to its 5,000 restaurants. The goal is to turn the $3.2 billion business into a chain of one-stop chicken eateries offering both fried chicken and such nonfried items as broiled chicken and chicken salad sandwiches. To sell this change, Craig and Cranor are planning a gradual replacement of the original name with just the initials KFC. “The key is to reduce dependence on the word `fried,’ ” says Craig.

Conclusion

There are several assertions made in the rumors regarding KFC.

  • Name change: KFC did not change its name to avoid using the word “chicken.” The changed occurred in 1991 to de-emphasize the word “fried.” KFC continues to use the word chicken in its marketing and menu.
  • Photo of “naked” chickens: This photo dates to 2002 and is unrelated to KFC or its supplier.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms: KFC’s supplier Yum! does use genetically modified organisms in some markets, including North America, but these animals in no way resemble the tube-fed mutants described in the rumors about KFC.

Updated November 22, 2015
Originally published March 2013

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