Give A Pluck: When Did Chickens Get So Political?
June 24, 2016

Sometimes, a chicken crosses the line.

This month, KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) lived up to its “Finger Lickin’ Good” motto by introducing in Hong Kong a line of nail polish that tastes like chicken. "Simply apply and dry like regular nail polish and then lick — again and again and again to taste why the world's favourite chicken is Finger Lickin' Good," the company says.

Even from the most objective standpoint, this seems thoroughly objectionable. Why would a company with 20,000 global outlets and $23 billion in annual revenues risk its brand by associating with something that only seems suitable to bulimics?

It’s not the first time they’ve done something that must have started out as a hard sell from their ad agency. In 2014 they introduced prom corsages that held chicken drumsticks. Young men could order a corsage that came with a $5 coupon redeemable at the nearest KFC -- so prom boys didn’t have to pay an additional fee for a fresh chicken bone to put into the corsage.

The accompanying commercial to the promotion is somewhat brilliant, capitalizing on a female who is reluctant about the bone at first, but comes around, so to speak, which in turn gives the male a sense of confidence. It’s not to be missed.

But would the prom dates be as impressed if they knew that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals came up with possible evidence that if you’re pregnant, eating chicken could give your unborn son a small penis?

The small penis rumor might be why KFC introduced their Double Down, described as a pinch of secret sauce between two chicken filets. Essentially, the buns are chicken. In some countries the Double Down also comes with something called a “zinger.” No comment.

The recently reincarnated Colonel must know that he can take these advertising risks because the whole world loves fast food chicken - everyone between the ages of 6 and death; men and women love it equally and market researchers also say it appeals to “all lifestyles.” Something for everyone: breasts, thighs, drumsticks, white meat, dark meat and indoctrination meals for kids.

Here in the U.S., chicken became more popular than beef in 2014, and thanks to factory farming – an industry that would even freak out Upton Sinclair – chicken has been less expensive than beef for half a century. Factory farming pulls this off by hatching their chickens early, making them fatter than Richard Simmons’ newest client, gathering 7,000 of them at a time in 6-ton vacuums, scalding them in ammonia while they scream and their eyes pop out, and then slowly cutting their necks while they scream some more. Mercifully, instead of this treatment lasting for the normal ten-year lifespan of a chicken, it all takes place in the first 40 days of the chick’s life. Yes, those 10-pound chicken breasts at the stores are from baby chicks. The chicks that die from stress too early too be fully tortured are buried in mass graves. Therefore, chicken meat is relatively cheap.

But fast-food chain McDonald’s may have screwed up this low-cost trend by starting to make chicken more costly by creating too much demand. “Birds only have two wings,” says a spokesman for the National Chicken Council (yes, there’s a National Chicken Council). The NCC points out that McDonald’s stockpiled 250 million wings for a three-month “Mighty Wings” promotion and that drove the wholesale price of chicken up from 90 cents to $2 per pound. Essentially, McDonald’s made chicken wings too expensive to keep on its menu by putting chicken wings on its menu.

America’s chicken obsession isn’t limited to fast food restaurants. It cuts to the core of American culture. Mysophobiacs dared to challenge the wisdom of the great Julia Child when they told us that we should stop washing raw chicken. Rinsing just pushes things around — things like salmonella and Campylobacter, which gets whatever Campylobacter is all over everything that isn’t a chicken. That’s bad — so bad in fact that it inspired the creation of what may be a new art form, the Germ-Vision Animation. Germ-Vision wants to look really, really scary.

Politicians can’t resist jumping into the chicken coop either. At least not Colorado Republican State Senator Vicki Marble, who brought a legislative hearing on poverty to a dumbfounded standstill when she went off on a lunatic tangent that blamed poverty in Colorado on — what else? — chicken. “There’s certain problems in the black race,” said the (white) senator, referring to life expectancy of blacks and how it relates to what she thinks they eat all day. Not that there’s anything wrong with the diets of black Americans, of course. On the contrary: “I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South,” the senator said. “I mean, I love it. Everybody loves it.” She even couldn’t resist a bit of bragging by adding that, through the sheer awesomeness of her white-woman willpower, she has somehow resisted ever eating at a Colorado café called “Type 2 Chicken” that’s “located in a black neighborhood.”

But not everybody loves what Sen. Marble said. “I would ask that you suspend your perceptions and judgments about African-Americans about poverty,” said state Rep. Rhonda Fields in stunned response. “What we’re trying to do is to come up with meaningful solutions. It’s not about eating chicken.”

Sorry, Representative Fields, everything is about chicken.

Chicken politics probably started even before Hoover’s promise of a “chicken in every pot.” These days it spans Chick-fil-A’s stance on LGBT legislation to Donald Trump’s plan to save the economy by imposing high taxes on our poor, tortured chickens. Trump might have gotten that nonsensical idea from the Chicken War, when Europe was taxing imported chicken, and America retaliated by putting a tariff on flour (they must not have had Shake-n-Bake back then). It really had nothing to do with taxing our chicken population. Taxing them is Trump’s idea. All we did was eat our chickens.

According to the Broiler Chicken Council (yes, there’s a Broiler Chicken Council), “Americans consume more chicken than anyone else in the world – more than 90 pounds per capita in 2015 – the number one protein consumed in the United States.” Other industries feed off of that: 186 slaughter houses, 2 million employees, farmers sell 1.3 billion bushels of corn and soybean to feed the chickens before slaughter, and Americans spend $90 billion annually on their favorite protein. The USA is the largest exporter of eggs and poultry, and the state that slaughters the most chickens yearly is Georgia, offering up 1.2 billion dead chickens annually, followed closely by Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Mississippi and Texas. It’s clearly not safe to be a chicken below the Mason Dixon line these days. This is, essentially, America’s hottest form of genocide.

So, chicken is no laughing matter. Which might be why it’s illegal for a chicken to cross the road in Georgia’s little town of Quitman. And that’s not a joke.




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