jueves, 20 de septiembre de 2007

Animal 57: KFC's "Non-chicken"

In the late nineties, internet rumors began to spread that KFC-- formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken-- had begun to produce chicken products made from a genetically engineered chicken. The story variously described the chickens as hideously distorted featherless creatures with huge breasts, fed through feeding tubes, and perhaps even without heads or with extra drumsticks. According to this urban legend, KFC was forced to shorten its name from "Kentucky Fried Chicken" because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that their chickens were so altered that they could no longer be legally considered "chicken."

Here's one version of the story posted on several internet hoax sites:

"KFC has been a part of our American traditions for many years. Many people, day in and day out, eat at KFC religiously. Do they really know what they are eating? During a recent study of KFC done at the University of New Hampshire, they found some very upsetting facts.

"First of all, has anybody noticed that just recently, the company has changed their name? Kentucky Fried Chicken has become KFC. Does anybody know why? We thought the real reason was because of the "FRIED" food issue. It's not. The reason why they call it KFC is because they can not use the word chicken anymore. Why? KFC does not use real chickens. They actually use genetically manipulated organisms. These so called "chickens" are kept alive by tubes inserted into their bodies to pump blood and nutrients throughout their structure. They have no beaks, no feathers, and no feet. Their bone structure is dramatically shrunk to get more meat out of them. This is great for KFC because they do not have to pay so much for their production costs. There is no more plucking of the feathers or the removal of the beaks and feet.

"The government has told them to change all of their menus so they do not say chicken anywhere. If you look closely you will notice this. Listen to their commercials, I guarantee you will not see or hear the word chicken. I find this matter to be very disturbing. I hope people will start to realize this and let other people know.

"Please forward this message to as many people as you can. Together we can make KFC start using real chicken again."

Variants of the story have also implicated the chicken products of McDonalds, Tyson Foods, and others. Outside of the U.S., the FDA is replaced by other state food regulatory authorities.

In a related set of urban legends, some versions provide the engineered chicken's top-secret-research model number: "Animal 57." The Animal 57 stories include a broader range of food companies (Taco Bell, Pepsico, etc.) and often describe the beast in even more horrific terms: a giant blob of animal flesh (not necessarily chicken) suspended in a huge nutrient vat, from which slices of meat are periodically harvested.

Surprisingly (or not) PETA still credulously alludes to the genetic alteration tale in some of its literature [see examples here and here].

The reality is that these genetically engineered freak chickens have never existed. No genetically engineered chickens (freaks or not) have ever been used in commercial food production in the U.S. In fact, to date, no genetically engineered animal of any kind has ever been approved for human consumption in any country in the world. The often-cited University of New Hampshire study does not exist.

KFC formally shortened its name in 1991 to reflect changes in its menu which incorporated more non-fried chicken products. KFC still uses the word "chicken" in its menus and advertising to this day.

Trivia: The earliest "incarnation" of this urban legend may be the 1967 Italian cult-classic horror film "La Morte ha fatto l'uovo," in which a chicken breeder creates headless, wingless mutant chickens.

Starring Gina Lollibrigida, the film is also known as "Death Laid an Egg," "A Curious Way to Love," and "Plucked."

An even earlier version of the Animal 57 myth was born in Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth's 1952 sci-fi novel The Space Merchants. In the future corporation-dominated world of this novel, humans eat meat carved from a giant, living blob of chicken flesh named "Chicken Little."

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