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KFC's New Meatless Chicken Makes Me Cringe — And Also Feel Hopeful
Purchasing faux meat from a long-running chicken establishment may seem counteractive to some vegetarians -- but it may still end up furthering the plant-based movement.
Last week, while driving down Ventura Boulevard on a bus that I'd already caught 30 minutes late due to traffic, I made a pastime of rating independent shops and eateries based on how much I could picture myself returning there.
Most places were no-gos; as much as I'd like to admit that maybe, one day, I'd have enough money to enter the nail salon that's so posh it bans cell phones from the "nail sanctuary," the truth is that I just don't want to go there.
I've taken a similar attitude towards the famous delis and diners that dot the original U.S. Route 101 — I like the idea of being able to eat at those establishments, but the reality is that there's not enough on the menu for my vegan self to enjoy a full meal. That may soon change.
From my bus seat, I counted two establishments proudly boasting "vegan options now available!"
While I can't speak to the quality of those options, I'll admit that just knowing they have them gives me an incentive to at least check out those restaurants. Sure, it feels a little counter-intuitive to spend money at a place that could then use those profits to purchase more meat products.
But by offering a meat-free option, at least some of that money will be used to buy meat alternatives. This will only continue if vegetarian diners continue to support the demand for a meat-free option.
Supporting an independent diner that's experimenting with vegan fare is one thing; it's another to support KFC. In early June, the multi-national mega-chain announced that it was developing a vegetarian version of its original chicken recipe; if all goes well with test audiences, the company hopes to launch the product to UK diners sometime in 2019.
The move is said to be part of KFC's plan to reduce the caloric impact of their meals. Being such a large company, however, I can't help but think that it is mostly an attempt to tap into the growing faux meat market.
It's cringe-inducing that KFC, a company whose empire was built on the matted feathers of overgrown chickens, should want to cash in on something that stands in face of everything its company represents.
Even those who disagree with that last statement can probably understand why vegans would hesitate to flock to a chicken franchise — one that still processes plenty of meat on-site — just because they now offer a vegetarian alternative (this is to say nothing as to how the makings for the veggie meat have been sourced).
At the same time, KFC is a big chain. It exists in places where meat-free alternatives are practically unheard of. And if it can create a demand for veggie meat in an area where there previously wasn't one, it will be a good thing. Still, that vegan popcorn chicken will be a tough meal for some vegans to swallow.