KFC Crisis: A Wake-Up Call | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

KFC Crisis: A Wake-Up Call

Comment Editor Kat Smith argues that KFC's 'chicken crisis' should be a wake-up call that our consumerist greed has gone too far

Last week, the KFC ‘Crisis’ hit the UK, with chains across the nation running out of chicken. Along with most of the population, I initially found it somewhat amusing that a chicken shop had run out of chicken and felt a pang of sympathy for those having to deal with it. But it became a bit more real upon reading that the police have had to ask people to refrain from calling them about the tragedy, countless tweets have been sent and the headlines are swarming, days after the initial problem began. In fact, I was going to recall how many BBC stories there have been since the saga began and I realised after scrolling for a few minutes that there were just too many to go through. 

This stuff really is a national crisis, guys. 

But, let’s be real for a second. The only crisis KFC has caused is for the animals they kill, and the environment they are helping to destroy, and their encouragement of consumer entitlement. The only tragedy is that this was seen as an outrage because of the lack of chicken (how can someone cope without their bargain bucket?) rather than the entitlement displayed towards the earth’s resources. ‘It’s not that deep’ I hear you say, resenting that I am slowly hinting towards the classic veggie/vegan angle of ‘I love animals and this planet, can we please stop hurting them?’

But sorry, it is that deep. And I’m glad they finally ran out of chicken for a while. 

Whether you care for animal welfare or not, it all boils down to that we are living on a planet. We are not self-reliant and are dependent on resources that are external to us to survive. These resources are finite.

It has long been instilled in us that, if we have the money for a product or service, then we are entitled to it

It has long been instilled in us that, if we have the money for a product or service, then we are entitled to it. 

The word ‘chicken’ seems to have altered from the name of an animal to solely the name of a type of meat, it’s separated from the fact that this ‘food’ product derives from a living being. And these living beings need to be housed, slaughtered and processed in order to go from a plucky animal to a feature on your dinner plate. The methods by which this process occurs is simply unsustainable, if not also grossly inhumane. The Human Slaughter Association estimates that 2.6 million cattle, 10 million pigs, 14.5 million sheep and lambs, 80 million fish and 950 million birds are killed for human consumption every year. There are 900 KFC stores in the UK and countless other fast-food chains; it should come as absolutely no surprise that there would be a shortage at some point.

The problem is multidimensional, and it feels important to note how sickening it is to see people getting angry over KFC lacking chicken and simultaneously despairing over the state of the environment. According to PETA, 51% of greenhouse emissions are a due to animal agriculture. We are told to save water, turning off taps while we brush our teeth and take short showers instead of baths, yet animal agriculture uses 34-76 trillion gallons annually. The stats are clear, yet the meat industry still gets pass because ‘meat tastes good!’ - it has become so much of a part of our culture that we don’t realise how badly we are treating the planet in order to get that flavour. 

Burger King’s ‘trolling’ of KFC, selling 9 chicken nuggets for 99p, makes this into a funny game where fast-food companies see what the lowest price they can sell goods for. These goods should be at a ridiculously high price, if they’re sold at all, due to their effect on the planet, us and obviously the animals who are exploited for these products. The ridiculously low price we put on meat and selling it as convenient fast-food not only perpetuates the message that animals have no value, but also emphasises the ignorance of the meat industry on the environment. Fast-food meat products, like fried chicken and cheeseburgers, emphasise this idea that meat is cheap and easy, but it’s a dangerous convenience to have. 

I tried so hard to not make this a rant against the meat industry, but it is pretty difficult when such an industry is reflective of damages to the environment, out of control consumerism and general ignorance. 

It’s time to start taking responsibility for our planet in a way that is not just retweeting a viral video of an emaciated polar bear.

It’s time to start taking responsibility for our planet in a way that is not just retweeting a viral video of an emaciated polar bear. It’s time to stop seeing protecting animal welfare as signing a petition against animal testing while eating a 99p cheeseburger. We need to question the messages and assumptions we’ve been fed since birth and take some kind of responsibility. 

Perhaps it’s a case of education, and these events and companies need to be presented as reflections of the current state we live in, in order to show the public and shame the companies that enable such exploitation of the earth’s resources and encourage an entitlement to whatever you can stick a price on. Though I always see that attempts at educating people on the harms of the fast food industry, and the positives of a meatless diet, are met with offence, because it’s up to us what we eat. There’s also a misconception that vegetarianism and veganism demands an abundance of quinoa, avocado and tofu. It’s important to educate how our dinner plates can be conscientious without costing a fortune and without requiring too much time or thought. I know that, especially amongst young people, veganism, vegetarianism and a general environmental conscience is growing. But it’s not growing fast enough and it’s not wide enough in a world where convenience is king.

Although KFC’s apology was hilarious, it was definitely appropriate. Their not-so-hidden ‘FCK’ rearrangement on a chicken bucket should instead be a wake-up call that we are seriously messing with our world. I hope these kind of instances, where money and efficiency can’t demand the immediate presence of resources and satisfaction of demand, is a huge lesson to consumers, companies and the government.

Opinionated second-year Philosophy student and houmous enthusiast. (@katlouiise)


18th March 2018 at 9:00 am

Images from

Ramon Velasquez