This January (2022), Kentucky Friend Chicken (KFC) is launching a new plant-based option across the US in partnership with Beyond Meat called Beyond Fried Chicken. While the product itself is vegan, the brand has confirmed that it is made using the same equipment as KFC’s traditional fried chicken. This has caused some controversy, so we wanted to address the criticisms head on.
We understand that for some people being vegan is about personal purity – not wanting to ingest any form of animal product including even trace amounts, and we respect their choice. But we know that most people go vegan to spare animals from suffering and/or reduce their environmental impact, and eating plant-based chicken – whether cooked on the same equipment as a meat one or on separate equipment – will have exactly the same impact for animals and the planet. The same amount of suffering will be spared, the same amount of forest and water will be saved, and it will be the same reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, for all of the important issues that Veganuary – and most vegans – are trying to address through their food choices it makes absolutely no difference whether the plant-based chicken is cooked separately or on the same equipment as the meat.
What does make a big difference to animals and the planet is when non-vegans choose a plant-based menu option, enjoy it and then order it again. And that’s exactly who KFC’s Beyond Friend Chicken is aimed at, non-vegans who want to reduce their meat consumption for health or environmental reasons or are considering going vegan. It isn’t aimed at existing vegans. KFC is not trying to ‘capitalize on the vegan dollar’; it is catering for the growing number of flexitarians and meat-reducers. And this is something we should welcome if we’re vegan for the animals or the planet, not just because every single plant-based meal makes a difference in and of itself, but it will also hopefully help the people choosing the plant-based option to see that vegan food is tasty and convenient and lead them to order it more often.
The only way to create more vegans is by changing non-vegans. Increasing the availability of plant-based options, particularly those that are similar to meat and likely to appeal to non-vegans, is the best way to do this. Insisting that KFC cook all of its plant-based burgers on separate equipment would severely limit the availability of this option as it requires a major change of infrastructure. For the sake of the billions of animals suffering in factory farms and our planet on the brink of ecological disaster, any delay in rolling out a plant-based burger is completely unjustifiable.
Our motto at Veganuary is don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good, so we applaud KFC for taking this crucial step in the right direction and look forward to the day when only vegan chicken is served.