Totally Clucked: The 2018 KFC Famine

A fried chicken shortage reveals more about us than we'd like to admit

One of many downbeat rivals to KFC.

Clucking hell. Even as we speak, a famine has befallen the land, and a pillar of our civilization nears collapse. Yes, KFC has run out of chicken. The end times are upon us.

To appreciate the sheer scale of this crisis, consider the victims. There is a whole generation of mainly young men (14-25) left bereft of their KFC fix. You can imagine them, lying on the ground in a foetal position, sweating and grinding their teeth.

And as their bodies, starved of the 11 secret herbs and spices, and presumably, coleslaw on the side, begin to fail, the only balm for their pain is the vision awaiting them at the end of a dark tunnel – the Colonel himself, beckoning them home.

All of a sudden, the KFC lovers seem less like
turkeys and more like canaries in the coal mine.

And at His side are all the chickens who’ve been well and truly plucked for dinner, all ready to be deep fried once more in a kind of poultry Valhalla. As their pupils dilate, and their insides explode out of their anuses, the youth of Britain will nonetheless die with a happy tear in their eyes. They’re coming home.

Beat that, Little Nell!

Headless Chickens

I do not entirely write in jest. Various police forces across the country have requested people stop ringing them to complain that the local KFC is out of Gallus gallus domesticus. MPs report their constituents are starting to panic. The #KFCCrisis hashtag is not merely used in jest. PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY FREAKING OUT OVER THIS.

At the time of writing, just over half of KFC’s branches have closed down. By the time you read this, issues involving the franchise’s supply chain will have hopefully been resolved. The pinched and emaciated frames of the youth will finally find nepenthe in the form of a Zinger burger with fries…

Now three questions leap to mind here. The first, and most obvious one, is what the hell is wrong with Chicken Cottage? Being middle class, and everything, I would, of course, just go to Nando’s, presumably whilst quipping about the works of Zola.

Indeed, every inner city area and suburb has any number of Halal-based Alabama/Texas/Dixy/Alaska Fried Chicken outposts, a juxtaposition that would make any Red Stater’s head explode. Yet for all this, the KFC shortage has caused panic. Why?

Get Stuffed

Partly, it’s due to the much overlooked area of male eating disorders. While these blight the lives of girls and women, it is also a problem that afflicts men of all ages. Food phobia – an aversion to texture and taste, goes a long way to explaining why so many young men seem to live off fried chicken and chips, with lashings of salt.

It’s a nice, unchallenging, unthreatening taste. KFC has been providing this sort of fare for longer than anyone else. Your local Chicken Hut might come close, but the end product may be a bit too greasy, too spicy. Food phobics know what their eating disorder tells them.

They can’t in fact eat anything else. If you want proof, look at how fried chicken has grown to become the most popular fast food in the UK. The KFC shortage has been a great gender leveler – boys, girls, women and men all labouring under an epidemic of undiagnosed eating disorders.

That’s not to say that most KFC addicts are harbouring an eating disorder. Sometimes tastes themselves are addictive. We must never forget the power of brand loyalty. People are so hooked on a particular taste, they panic when it is taken away. Even when it’s really bad for them.

Fox In The Hen House

But the real story is how a national chain was brought to its knees when its supply chain failed. A change in delivery contractor lead to trucks stuck in queues as their cargoes of chicken began to rot and spoil. In an age of food banks and rising food costs, the spectacle must have been vile to behold.

Bad news for KFC fans, of course. But imagine if this disruption took its toll on the UK’s food supplies. We don’t grow enough to feed ourselves, and this means we need not only on food imports to survive, but an intricate network of distributors, depots and road transit to make sure we all get that food on time.

Yet for all this, the KFC shortage has caused
panic. Why?

If Just-In-Time manufacture and distribution bring many benefits, they also harbour one key weakness. When it goes down, everything goes down with it. That can mean chicken, clothes, medicine, motor parts, electronics, petrol… We are one crisis away from a really crap version of the Bronze Age.

One demonstration of this is how KFC has taken a dim view of some branches smuggling in chicken from local butchers. KFC, and other big firms cannot countenance anything outside their strictures.

Standardisation brings high quality, at least in theory. But it can also bring dogma, and dogma must never yield. Even when the chicken runs out.

Maybe the KFC famine is just a harbinger of things to come. Imagine food imports getting cut off, or the system itself breaking down. It’s all too possible. Brexit threatens both our food supplies and the export markets that keep many of our farmers afloat. Our infrastructure is vulnerable to both malfunction and cyber-attack.

All of a sudden, the KFC lovers seem less like turkeys and more like canaries in the coal mine. So maybe we should be grateful that it’s only KFC fans who are panicking this time. Now, hands up who can grow their own food…

Image by sachab @ Flickr. Used and modified under the terms of the Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.

Alexander Hay
About Alexander Hay 75 Articles
Alexander Hay is a writer and polemicist based online and in print.

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