How Should We Feel About KFC’s Vegan Chicken?

I woke up this morning to news that Kentucky Fried Chicken is going to start testing vegan versions of their fried chicken at one of their locations in Atlanta. The plant-based chicken will be produced by Beyond Meat. Beyond pulled their vegan chicken product from store shelves earlier this year to improve the formula (So, that’s what happened… I’ve been looking for that stuff!).

KFC is the largest chicken fast-food chain in the United States, with around 4,000 restaurants. For years, they have been rightfully criticized by animal rights activists for selling the product of despicable animal cruelty. PETA famously campaigned against KFC for over a decade around the world.

Chrissie Hynde protesting KFC with PETA in France

While I really don’t want to give KFC any props considering what a disgraceful history they have, I’d be remiss as an animal activist if I didn’t acknowledge the enormous potential this vegan menu item has to spare animals a lifetime of misery – even more so than plant-based burgers.

Why? Because chickens are arguably the most abused animals on the planet. In the United States alone, nearly 10 billion animals are raised and killed for food every year – and over 95 percent of them are chickens. When we talk about cows or pigs or turkeys, we’re talking millions of animals – but when we talk about chickens, we’re talking billions. We can’t even being to imagine the enormity of the suffering that occurs at the hands of the chicken industry.

I worked for years at a nonprofit that did undercover investigations on chicken factory farms across the country, and the cruelty I witnessed was like looking into scenes from hell itself.

Chickens on today’s farms are bred to grow so large and in such a short amount of time that the weight of their bodies literally causes the bones in their legs to break, resulting in painful injuries and lameness. Many suffer heart attacks from rapid growth. Additionally, chickens are handled roughly by farm workers; sick or injured birds are often brutally killed by being impaled with a spiked rod. And finally, chickens are exempt from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act — the only law that is supposed to protect farmed animals during their final moments.

Take a look at this undercover investigation done at a farm that supplies Tyson, the largest chicken producer in the United States. Tyson sells their chicken to KFC.

If KFC and other major restaurants that serve chicken begin to offer a vegan chicken option, it could be monumental in terms of sparing countless animals from cruelty. While this initial launch is a limited test, KFC could very well expand this nationwide – just look at the success of Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, and others. This past year, customers at burger chains ate more than 200 million vegan burgers. Imagine what could happen if patrons at KFC and other chicken fast-food restaurants followed a similar path.

If you’re still eating chicken, stop. Seriously, it’s one of the easiest animal products to give up because the vegan substitutes that exist are indistinguishable from actual chicken. Check out the products by Gardein and Morningstar Farms (just make sure the Morningstar Farms products are vegan – some have eggs in them).

Don’t wait for KFC to roll out their vegan chicken nationwide, commit to doing your part today.