Chickening Out - by Barry Estabrook (2008)


Playing Chicken..The food industry and its governmental apologists have had a busy year changing the definitions of common English words. The first rewrite of the dictionary came courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration, which in February moved to redefine the word milk to include a high-tech industrial product called milk protein concentrate.

This week it was time for Tyson Foods, Inc., the country’s second-largest chicken producer, to try its hand at being a 21st-century Dr. Johnson. The word in question was “voluntarily,” which my Webster’s defines as “brought about by one’s own will, … without external compulsion.”

In a news release the company said it had notified the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it was “voluntarily” withdrawing labels saying that its chicken was raised without antibiotics—an assertion that the USDA and competing poultry companies claimed was at best misleading.

Interestingly, the “voluntary” withdrawal came just days after the affirmation of a court injunction ordering Tyson to change its labels.

Animal Rights Coop

It looks like chain restaurant executives can only take so much criticism from the likes of actress Pamela Anderson and fellow Playboy alum Lauren Anderson. The two celebrities were among many luminaries who lent their support to a five-year-long campaign called Canadian Kentucky Fried Cruelty by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In order to get PETA to call off its attacks, which included a boycott and more than 12,000 protests at restaurants and outside the homes of company bosses, KFC Canada promised improved treatment for the birds it deep-fries. Under the terms of the cease-fire, the restaurant will buy only chickens that are not raised in overcrowded conditions and are killed by gassing, a humane method of slaughter.

Although Canada’s KFC owners can breathe more easily, PETA has promised to continue its Kentucky Fried Cruelty Campaign in countries that have yet to see the light. The group will persist in targeting Yum Brands, Inc., which owns KFC and several other fast-food chains in the United States.

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