A brief, yet important study of whether KFC will bring deep-fried pea protein-based agglomerations of meat-like substances to the eager New Zealand public anytime soon.
It was Tuesday morning. Stuff's news director in Auckland went around the table, and the other reporters revealed his hot tip: John Tamihere promised that if elected mayor he would give a gold bar to all newborns (or something like that). There was possibly something about Lime scooters. Some famous people had their name suppressed, so we couldn't do much of the story about it, and some who weren't very famous had their name suppressed as well, which was even worse. And of course there were lots of really newsworthy things that you will be able to read about here over time.
I had no good tips to offer, but I had Twitter open on my laptop, so when the name was called, I was recently aware that Donald Trump was a terrible person, that the Amazon rainforest was burning, and that in Atlanta, Georgia, the junk food giant KFC was just that day, offering customers buckets with non-chicken protein lumps (though they phrased it differently):
It's Kentucky Fried Chicken, but it's made with @BeyondMeat . It's confusing, but it's also delicious. Partying on these Kentucky Fried miracles tomorrow while last at the KFC in Atlanta, Georgia. pic.twitter.com/lC5oYM1cmk
– KFC (@kfc) August 26, 2019
This was Twitter, so the answers included drift as this:
Don't sell your soul to the vegans.
– Kelly Joyce Sr. (@ChopnWoodUGA) August 26, 2019
I was intrigued. Because New Zealand loves KFC stories. There have been many about the unhealthy Double Down calorie grinder; there were several about how workers were striving for better wages; it was this about an unlikely car accident at a KFC crossing; and the one about the campaign for halal KFC.
(To be fair, the weird and thus best KFC stories are largely overseas, such as this one about a deep fried "rat" that was not, a rose-flavored chicken burger KFC tried in China, and the Australian KFC which Probably trying for a Michelin star.)
Anyway, surely New Zealanders – and especially vegetarian and vegan New Zealanders who are eager to eat mysteriously flavored tan like any carnivorous colored deep fried protein chunks – will know when (and indeed about) "Beyond Fried Chicken" is coming to New Zealand.
"Maybe," I said decently, "someone could figure it out."
Fine, said the news director. You find out, then we put it on the internet.
19659017] I called Auckland HQ for Restaurant Brands. They gave the number to a man at a public relations company. I called it and the man gave me an email address. I collected a series of probing questions and sent them to that email address, and soon got a response from a woman at the same PR company. I get to the details of what she told me later in the story, mostly to build suspense.
In the old days, when I had a girlfriend who was vegan, I tried vegetarian "bacon", structured soy protein chops and mushroom-based Quorn products, and I can report that they all tasted pretty vile. If I wanted a meal that is free of dead animals, give me a nutshell and some real vegetables every day.
However, more convincing fake meat technologies have recently emerged, and business is booming. Beyond Meat – the US company whose non-chicken is the key ingredient in these Atlanta KFC-12 buckets – has a market value of around $ 15 billion. Its biggest rival Impossible Foods was recently valued at over $ 3 billion.
Beyond Meat's products are mostly made from water, pea protein isolate, canola oil and coconut oil, and much smaller amounts of 20-odd other ingredients to get the flavor right. Impossible Foods contains something called "heme" that is made using a genetically modified yeast and behaves a bit like blood.
The target market for these younger, higher-tech, more compelling non-meat includes real vegans and vegetarians who miss the taste, but know that meat is murder, but also "flexitarians" – a term that seems to mean exactly nothing, given that you can eat whatever you want, depending on your state of conscience.
In New Zealand, you can already get Beyond Meat burgers from Lord of the Fries and Burger Fuel, and Hell Pizza stirred up a headline-friendly scandal when they smuggled Beyond Meat patties onto a "medium-rare burger patty" without telling customers. In the US, Carl's Jr. sells burgers containing Beyond Meat patties, but not yet in New Zealand. Grocery stores and some New Zealand supermarkets sell Beyond Meat candies you can cook yourself.
And based on a brief conversation with a vegan in the office, I can report that there is at least one Aotearoan who wants to see KFC hop on the plant-like-taste-pretty-much-like meat ribcage (even though she had read reports that KFC actually fried everything in it the same oil, which kind of messed up the vegan thing).
Which brings us to the really important part of this story. What did KFC say when I asked them about the chances of chicken without chicken popping up in one of their salty calories with salted calories?
The answer, just one sentence, was to be attributed to "KFC spokesperson," and it went like this:
"At this time, we are not testing or planning to offer vegan replacement for our finger-picking" good chicken in New Zealand. "
So now you know it.