On the 10th of January KFC will be launching their very own plant-based fried chicken option through the USA. Beyond Fried Chicken is a product created by KFC in collaboration with Beyond Meat, a company that has been producing plant-based meat substitutes since 2012. KFC, one of the YUM brands, claims that it will be the first time a large national chain is selling plant-based chicken products. As opposed to the more common hamburger and sausage alternatives. However, for now, Beyond Fried Chicken will only be available while stocks last.
The fast-food chain says that its goal was not simply to create a plant-based alternative. But to create one that still had the signature KFC flavour and texture. Kevin Hochman, the KFC US President, said “The mission from day one was simple: make the world-famous Kentucky Fried Chicken from plants”.
So they first started with a preliminary test run in August 2019 in Atlanta, USA. They must have done well with taste even on for this first round. Because the product sold out in five hours. This event led the chain to dub it a “Kentucky Fried Miracle” in a few of their tweets.
Next, they rolled out more trial runs in 2020 in some US cities. Including Los Angeles, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nashville.
Now, after years of testing, they are happy with the product and its ability to mimic the taste and texture of whole muscle chicken. And are officially launching “Beyond Fried Chicken”. Hochman even says “The taste is so good that they might choose it over regular fried chicken”.
Is it Vegan?
In 2019, Burger King faced a class-action lawsuit. Filed by a vegan customer on the basis that their plant-based Impossible Whoppers were “deceptive”. Because they cooked them on the same broilers used to prepare beef.
Burger King has since made this factor clear in its marketing. And KFC is now making a point of informing the public that this new plant-based item is not for strict vegan or vegetarian eaters. Because it is prepared in the same areas where chicken is prepared. And, for now, clients will not be able to request that restaurants prepared and cook their Beyond Fried Chicken with separate equipment.
As a result, the fast-food chain will not be targeting vegans and vegetarians with its marketing for Beyond Fried Chicken. But aim it more at flexitarians and those who want to minimise their animal-based protein intake as opposed to cutting it out completely.
Generally, plant-based chicken contains a mixture of pea protein, soy protein, flour, oils, and seasoning. Although the exact ingredients and manufacturing method of KFC’s plant-based chicken are unknown. We do at least know that it is mostly made from a processed wheat protein with flavour enhancing seasonings.
According to a Beyond Meat spokesperson, once made, the plant-based chicken is battered, breaded, and fried, before being sent to the restaurants where employees will re-fry it prior to serving it.
Is it Healthier?
Fast foods, whether animal-based or plant-based are not good for human health. And if you want to compare them there is little difference. As it stands plant-based fast-food versions are not necessarily healthier than the alternatives.
In the case of KFC’s menu, the plant-based meals have very similar levels of sodium, and still contain a fair amount of saturated fat from the oils used. To add to this, there is a small difference in the calorie content between their Beyond Fried Chicken and the regular product.
Never mind the fact that plant-based chicken is a highly processed product. And vegan or not, processed foods are not ideal for the body. John Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, stated that “I don’t think eating highly processed foods is healthy. I think people thrive on eating whole foods”.