Rob Walker has an amusing take on KFC’s new ad campaign in Slate. Basically, KFC is trying to market its product as a healthy alternative to Big Macs.

Here’s a little secret about advertising: It can be misleading. (You may not know this, but in real life, there is no brand of chewing gum or hair gel that will instantly transform you into a pulsing object of sexual desire. For instance.) After all, pretty much every ad for a weight-loss scheme or potion features not a picture of a pile of millet, but a shot of that one huge slice of chocolate cake or obscenely large steak that you’re allowed to scarf down if you follow all the other rules.

Presumably, the KFC people simply figured that if the ever-credulous American public is willing to accept Dr. Phil as a weight-loss guru, or to buy the idea that Subway sandwiches will melt away their rolls of fat, then surely they’ll lap up this pitch like so much chicken grease. Yeah, the company’s official line talks up exercise (while the guy in the ad is a picture of sloth) and moderation (while showing two people splitting a bucket of the stuff). But who’ll notice?

Indeed. One suspects that, for people too lazy to consider alternatives other than fast food takeout, a bucket of pressure cooked chicken (KFC isn’t really fried in the traditional sense, F or no F) is better than a couple of Big Macs and the super-mega container of fries. And, indeed, it’s true. Take a look at the charts: A Big Mac has 540 calories and 32 grams of fat. And gobs of carbohydrates, too. An Original Recipe breast (the chart shows three figures, I’m taking an educated guess) has 140 calories and 9 grams of fat. So, you could eat a lot of chicken and come out ahead.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. hln says:

    Calling KFC’s chicken “healthy” without removing all the trans fats – that is stooping prettttty low.

    Around 1993, the store I worked at changed from the solid blocks of shortening to a more liquefied form (hydrogenated, baby). I have no idea what stores use today, but I’m guessing it ain’t canola, or else we would’ve heard about it.

    KFC IS fried in a pretty traditional sense. Those Collectromatics hold a boatload of oil (I believe between 35 and 50 pounds each), into which the chicken is fully immersed for between 14 minutes and change and 18 minutes (depending on how many “head” – or chickens – one cooks on the little round baskets at once.

    It’s decadent at best. If KFC wanted to tout its health benefits, it’d push the baked beans and the Tender Roast sandwiches. This marketing scheme makes me laugh.

    Oh, and Subway, if order eat a chicken sub without cheese, no mayo, no oil, and load it with veggies, it’s a whopping 320 calories. That’s a nice low-cal meal that hits quite a few food groups. So I take a bit of umbrage with Mr. Walker’s tone. I should probably tell him so myself.


  2. James Joyner says:


    True enough on the Subway sub minus all the ingredients people actually seem to like. Of course, you still get that huge piece of bread with all those carbs.

    And the comparison KFC makes is to eating fast food burgers. They’re not particularly bad if you eat ’em like I do–the “regular” burgers with only catsup–but the Big Macs and Whoppers and such are much worse than KFC chicken.

    All of which are worse than, say, grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts at home.

  3. hln says:

    Fear you. Carbs are NOT the enemy.

    And, yeah, I’m the “grilling chicken at home” type. KFC, like, once a year. I’ll read the whole thing and blog about it. Didn’t have time on the work break.

    Still, I’ll stand by my original “health and KFC do not belong in the same sentence” sentiment. KFC’s a treat; not a staple.