Being skepical at work #2

Statement: “Did you know KFC changed its name because they couldn’t claim their food was chicken because they actually grow headless, feetless chickens in a lab? I saw it on 60 Minutes!”
Claim(s): The restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken grows in vitro meat. This story was on 60 Minutes.

My immediate response: “No, dude. No.”

Results of research: FALSE

Right off the bat, I figure this claim is ridiculous because I’m pretty sure that we (humans) don’t have the technology yet to grow in vitro meat. I would imagine if we did, it would not be limited to a single restaurant chain so they could produce chicken-like meat to sell to people looking for a quick meal. I’m thinking it would be a Nobel prize winning achievement that would cure world hunger. PETA would be THRILLED at the prospect of meat that doesn’t involve killing a living animal and would be huge fans of KFC. Lastly, if such a thing were true and was on 60 Minutes (or any other TV program) I would probably be able to find clips of it on the internet.

So off I went and surprise, surprise, no such clip was found on their site nor were there any stories related to the restaurant in relation to growing meat in labs. Instead, I found a story that mentions protests of the restaurant by PETA which contradicts the prediction above (ie. PETA would be fans of in vitro meat). I also found stories that talk about animal cruelty accusations against the chain which pretty much throws the idea of in vitro meat out the window on its own. Why would they be torturing animals if they could just grow a chicken breast or leg in a lab?

But I pressed on. Turns out this urban legend is actually pretty old and Snopes has already covered it so my work was already done. Yay! It actually goes back to at least 1999, a full 8 years after they changed their name. Snopes does a good job of debunking the myth on the link so I won’t step on their toes but my favorite part is that despite the “justification” of this myth being that they had to change their name because they can no longer advertise their product as chicken, the KFC website uses the word “chicken” numerous times.

Lastly, my old friend wikipedia has a whole host of links about in vitro meat. Remember that KFC changed its name in 1991 and yet according to New Scientist in 2002, scientists are still not able to produce edible meat in the lab. Also, as recently as 2008, PETA launched a $1 million challenge to the first people who can create edible, tasty in vitro meat. So if KFC has had this highly advanced capability for the past 20 years, and it was well-known enough to appear on 60 Minutes, why is PETA running this contest in 2008? And why hasn’t KFC (or its parent company Yum!) claimed this prize? Why is PETA still accusing KFC of animal cruelty and boycotting its restaurants today?

Obviously, none of the facts add up to support the claim and, in fact, counter the claim quite handedly. For the record, I WISH this were true but alas, wishful thinking is a dangerous thing sometimes.


One response to “Being skepical at work #2

  1. Good entry! It makes me want to steal this format of self-testing one’s skepticism whenever it comes up….but I’m not often surrounded by the credulous for it to be worth embarking on.

    Then again, there ARE those people who, after I take them out with my telescope, INSIST that I’ve seen a UFO, Planet X, or Nibiru.

    Anyway, in vitro meat has existed for about a year now, but it is very small, and bares a resemble in texture to gelatin, and taste to…probably sandy shit. Penn Jillette did a thing on it just before his radio show just before it was cancelled, and he postulated that it would be great to see the “don’t eat meat” hippies clash with the “don’t trust science” hippies.

    Recently the Colbert report did a story about this too, and even had Ingrid Newkirk on (this was in one of their 2nd-act vignettes….I can’t imagine Colbert ever having Newkirk on as a regular guest) talking about the $1 million prize.

    One of my favourite KFC myths I remember from childhood is that they go from egg to dinner plate in 28 days.

    I’m skeptical, but that grosses me out too much to want to look into it. I’d rather just not repeat the myth credulously, then at least I don’t have to eat my words. My delicious, delicious words.

    Fuck. I want some KFC now. I hope you’re happy.