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What is it that PETA wants the company to do to raise its ethical standards over their chicken suppliers? They have several key arguments with the reasons for them. First, they want suppliers to comply with "Animal Care Standards" in use throughout the country, which would ensure better living and growth conditions for the chickens. They want them to use another method of slaughter that would remove the ability to abuse the chickens and cause less suffering. They want chickens to be gathered mechanically, which reduces the threat of physical injury to the birds. They want suppliers to stop using drugs to grow chickens faster, and breed them for health rather than growth, which would lead to less physical problems. Finally, they ask for more "transparency" in the suppliers' operations, and audits by KFC and independent staff, with the results of those audits posted on the KFC Web site and available to the public. While the requests seem reasonable, and PETA has been asking for them since 2003, KFC has largely ignored the requests, which is another slam to their corporate ethics. In the end, they seem not to care about the animal welfare they tout at their site, at least in real reactions to the problem. They have not come up with viable solutions, which indicated they simply do not care about the problem.
Because the problem continues, PETA filed a lawsuit against the company in 2009. The editors continue, "In April 2009, PETA filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) outlining KFC's false and deceptive statements concerning the animal welfare claims that the company makes on its Web site, to the media, and to the general public" ("Why KFC?" 2010). KFC continues to maintain that its animal rights policy is effective, and PETA continues to argue they do not, so there is no end to the debate at this point.
The Ethics of Calories
KFC has also come under fire from consumer rights organizations who point to their fat and calorie-laden menus as helping lead to the fast-food obesity epidemic that is facing this country. In 2006, KFC removed trans fat from its fryers, which affected about 80% of its menu. However, trans fat still remains on the menu. A Los Angeles Times reporter notes, "Trans fat, however, will still be found in KFC's biscuits, macaroni and cheese and baked goods, for which the company has not yet found adequate substitutes for trans fat" (Hirsch 2006). Trans fat is the worst form of fat for the diet. It is solid, and it can cause high cholesterol, which can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Many cities have actually banned the use of trans fat by restaurants in their cities.
KFC recently added grilled chicken to its menu, as well, which is a low fat and calorie alternative to most of the high-calorie and high-fat food on its menu. KFC does offer a nutritional guide at its Web site, and offers nutritional analysis on all of its menu items. One of the reasons nutritionists are so involved in altering the fast-food industry is because so many low-income and young people rely on it for their regular diet, and they believe it is helping to lead the obesity epidemic in the country.
They believe fast-food restaurants have a moral and ethic responsibility to offer their customers healthier alternatives, and to provide nutritional information with the food, rather than on a Web site that many may not have the ability to reach. For example, their Nutrition Guide notes that one Spicy Crispy chicken breast, which weighs 176 grams, has 420 calories, 220 calories from fat, 25 grams of fat, and 1250 milligrams of sodium ("Nutrition Guide" 2010). The recommended guidelines for sodium are less than 2300 milligrams per day (about 1 teaspoon), and two pieces of this chicken would put a person over that limit. Dieticians recommend about 50 to 70 grams of fat per day for a normal diet, two pieces of chicken would bring a person to the low limit, and that does not include any side dishes ("Nutrition Guide" 2010). After looking at these numbers, and the numbers of the rest of their dishes, it is easy to see how someone eating a regular diet of KFC would gain weight.
While KFC does provide this information, they do little to actually make all of their food healthier for their consumers, and they do little to get the information out there to the public. Consumers should not have to wade through a PDF file that is nearly impossible to read until it is enlarged, they should be able to check on fat and calories in the restaurant when they purchase their food. Most people eat more than one piece of chicken along with side dishes, and the calories they contain could be as much as what dieticians recommend for the entire day. Corporations do have an ethical responsibility to provide the best possible product to their customers, but they have an ethical responsibility to promote good health, too. Many corporations promote good health among their employees to help reduce insurance premiums, so they should use the same standards and promote good health in their restaurants, as well.
Changing their menu to more healthful alternatives could take away from their bottom line and anger shareholders, but it would be the ethical and moral thing to do. It could make them more competitive toward other fast-food chains as Americans continue to look for healthier alternatives and address the obesity epidemic. KFC is not the only problem here; it is the entire fast-food industry that needs to be reinvented. If the public really cried out for change, the fast-food outlets would have to reinvent themselves, but for the most part, people remain largely ignorant of the fat and calories in what they consume, and so, the food continues to be unhealthy and full of fat and calories.
In conclusion, KFC is really no worse in its ethical practices than other large corporations, and that says something about our society as a whole. Americans are largely unconcerned about the ethics and morals of a company, unless it dramatically affects them. People cried out when Wall Street investment firms paid themselves large bonuses after the big bailout, but how many people actually gave up their affiliations with these companies -- forcing them to change because of the will of the people? Not enough to make the companies change their practices. KFC may have some questionable ethical situations, such as the animal cruelty issues, but for the most part, the American people just do not seem to care.
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Editors. 2010. Colonel Harlan Sanders. Louisville, KY: KFC. Online. Available from Internet, http://www.kfc.com/about/colonel.asp, accessed 10 March 2010.
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Editors. 2010. Supplier code of conduct. Louisville, KY: KFC. Online. Available from Internet, http://www.kfc.com/about/supplier.asp, accessed 10 March 2010.
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Hirsch, Jerry. 2006. KFC to slash menu's use of trans fat. Los Angeles, CA: Online. Available from Internet, http://articles.latimes.com/2006/oct/31/business/fi-kfc31?pg=2, accessed 10 March 2010.
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