KFC Sues Over Rumors of Eight-Legged Chickens

KFC is suing three media companies in China over rumors that they use eight-legged chickens.

The fast food company that operates KFC is fighting back against social media rumors that it uses genetically modified chickens which have six wings and eight legs. According to the Wall Street Journal, KFC owner Yum Brands is "suing three companies in China for allegedly spreading rumors about the quality of its food, including that its chickens have eight legs, a move that comes as the fried-chicken company fights to regain lost ground in one of its most critical markets.

"KFC said on its Chinese-language website that three Chinese media companies tarnished its image by spreading false information about its products on social media. The fast-food chain said it is requesting compensation of up to 1.5 million yuan (about $245,000) from each company, an apology and an end to the alleged practices."

When Will We See A Dino-Chicken?

This is of course not the first time that KFC has been the subject of bizarre rumors about its products. And it's only one of many food-based rumors and legends from the playful and benign - such as the aphrodisiac qualities of green M&Ms - to the racist and malicious - such as that Church's Chicken and Tropical Fantasy soda were marketed to black communities to sterilize them. However those rumors date back decades and began before modern social media, putting today's companies in a difficult spot as they try to do damage control.

KFC was the victim of unfounded and damaging rumors almost exactly a year ago when a woman named Kelly Mullins claimed that she visited one of their restaurants with her granddaughter who had been injured in a dog attack.

According to Mullins they were asked to leave by a KFC employee because the girl's scarred face upset other patrons. The story went viral on social media and soon outraged customers threatened boycotts, harassed the chain's employees, and donated $130,000 for the girl's care.

Strange State Of Matter Found In Chicken's Eye

However an investigation -- including of videotapes, eyewitnesses, and receipts -- found no evidence that Mullins or her granddaughter had even been to a KFC restaurant that day, much less been rudely asked to leave by anyone. Whether the incident was a hoax or an honest mistake, KFC was the subject of false and damaging rumors that date back decades.

Food Contamination Rumors and Legends As folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand notes in his "Encyclopedia of Urban Legends," the story of the Kentucky Fried Rat "is one of the best-known food contamination stories, being circulated since the early 1970s. It describes how a customer of a national fried-chicken franchise allegedly found a batter-fried rat in a bucket of chicken. Usually, the victim has eaten some of the rat before noticing the rodent's tail and realizing the meat is not chicken."

It's not just KFC; in her book "I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture," folklorist Patricia Turner notes that "In one rumor the Ku Klux Klan, who allegedly owns Church's Fried Chicken, has tainted the chicken recipe so that black male eaters are sterilized after consuming it."

The KFC rumors are different from the Church's Chicken rumors in that there's no alleged racist agenda attributed to the food contamination; the sinister motivation is much more general and widely accepted across all races and socioeconomic backgrounds: corporate greed. Presumably the six-winged, eight-legged monster chickens were created by KFC scientists to yield more meat - never mind that no one's ever seen such a mutant chicken and that the animal's legs would be much smaller and weaker because its body weight would be distributed over four times as many legs.

Not everyone is convinced that national chicken chains are engaging in food-borne racial genocide, but everyone agrees that big companies and corporations will do whatever they can to make a buck. In some versions of the KFC story rat meat was added to the chicken as a cost-saving measure by a penny-pinching manager. The fried rat story is superficially believable for the same reason that the scarred-child-asked-to-leave story was believable: Both depict cruel fast-food employees and a corporate indifference to the health and dignity of its customers driven by profit and greed.

Why Did The Chicken Cross The Prairie?

The six-winged, eight-legged, spiderlike chicken is also plausible to many people because it plays on popular and entrenched modern fears about food contamination. Celebrities such as Jenny McCarthy, for example, have raised fears about contamination in childhood vaccines which she (incorrectly) claims can cause autism; and celebrity health guru Vani Hari, (aka "The Food Babe") has raised public fears about (generally harmless) chemicals in fast food and genetically modified organisms.

In a world where a human ear can apparently be grown on the back of a mouse, it seems that almost anything is possible. In a widely shared photo, (the the mouse was real. But it wasn't an ear -- it was cow cartilage embedded under the skin in the shape of an ear to show how such tissue can be grown in the lab. By combining two powerful cultural tropes -- scientists playing God and corporate evil -- these sorts of rumors both reflect and perpetuate social concerns about scientific progress and distrust of big business.

When companies are faced with such rumors, the best course of action is not always clear and depends on many factors. When the rumor is based on a claim by a specific person about a specific incident, as in the story of the scarred child, it's often best to launch a prompt and comprehensive investigation. This may help determine whether the incident happened as described and lead to steps based upon the outcome -- such as firing a thoughtless employee.

On the other hand, when the rumors are more generalized and recurring -- such as the eight-legged chicken story -- the best response may range from information-based denials to even light-heartedly embracing the legend -- for example Mars Inc., the makers of M&Ms, eventually played with the reputation of green M&Ms as sexy in some of their print ads. Whether KFC will be successful in its lawsuit remains to be seen, and those who share such stories on social media may be held accountable.

Extreme weather events, financial collapse, political unrest: With today's overabundance of apocalyptic worry, now is a good time to start thinking about what you’ll do if and when the bottom falls out. In a survival situation, shelter, fire and clean drinking water should be your top priorities, said Tom Brown, founder of Tom Brown Jr.'s Tracking, Nature and Wilderness Survival School. And, even though people can survive for up to three weeks without food, Brown said, extreme hunger can make you crazy. So it's worth stocking up on canned foods and other non-perishables. Read on to find out what else you can -- and really shouldn't -- eat when the cans run out.

DO: Pet food People end up eating pet food often enough -- and sales tend to go up during recessions -- that FDA standards require food made for animals to be suitable for humans to eat too, said Cody Lundin, founder and director of the Aboriginal Living Skills School in Prescott, Ariz. In an episode of the Discovery Channel show "Dual Survival", Lundin eats dog food cooked over a campfire -- and while he expresses hope that they'll catch raccoon for breakfast, he lived to tell the tale.

DO: Rodents It's easy to catch rats and other rodents, said Brown, author of "Tom Brown's Guide to City and Suburban Survival." Simply bury a five-gallon bucket in the ground up to its edges. Cover the mouth of the container with sticks and wood scraps, and wait for a startled mouse or chipmunk to scramble under the jumbled objects. The animal will fall right into your trap. Next, burn the hair off your prey, skin them, gut them and throw them into a stew pot with water and any grains, vegetables or flour you might have on hand. "Don't even bother filleting them or getting rid of the bones," Brown said. "Bone marrow is high in nutrition and protein."

DON'T: Leather During their infamous struggle against starvation, the Donner Party ate a wide variety of unappetizing objects, including leather, which is made from animal hides. Long ago, people used the tannins in oak tree bark to turn animal skins into leather, making it a safe food item. But modern leather products are tanned with chemicals that are surely poisonous, said Lundin, author of "When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes." Your belts may look as good as fruit roll-ups when you're really hungry. But it's best to leave them in the closet.

DO: Bugs Grasshoppers, cockroaches, ants, tarantulas: Virtually all insects are edible. Just make sure to cook them well enough to kill the wide variety of diseases they can carry, Brown said. You can even eat bees and scorpions as long as you remove their stingers first. One easy way to catch insects is to fill a sink with a little water and some food crumbs. Hungry bugs will go for the bait and either drown or get stuck in the tub. Ounce for ounce, Brown added, insects have up to four times more usable protein than other animals. Instead of a pound of beef, a quarter-pound grasshopper burger will do the same job.

DO: Weeds "Food plants grow everywhere," said John Kallas, director of Wild Food Adventures, an educational company, and author of "Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate." "All you need to do is go out in your backyard." You also need to build up some detailed knowledge about botany before all hell breaks loose because eating the wrong plants or the wrong parts of plants can kill you. Common vitamin-rich weeds include wild spinach, cattails, field mustard, garlic mustard, nipplewort and dandelions. No matter how hungry you are, Kallas warned, only eat a little amount of any one kind of vegetation at a time. "Dandelions have some vital chemicals that are great for you in small amounts, but too much will give diarrhea," he said. "That's what you don't want in a survival situation."

DON'T: Cardboard and Paper Cardboard boxes may seem appealing because they contain cellulose from wood pulp, which is used as a thickener, stabilizer and source of fiber in a variety of food products. And along with paper, cardboard can counter hunger pains by taking up space. But people cannot adequately digest the cellulose in cardboard and paper, Brown said. Also, many of these products are treated with chemicals that can be toxic.

DO: Acorns Like any nut, acorns can be delicious and filling, but you can't just pop them in your mouth like cashews. To make acorns edible, Brown advised, first take them out of their husks. Next, drop them in a pot of just-boiled water and let them steep for a couple hours. Drain and repeat this process two to four times until all of the bitter tannic acid is gone. At last, you can eat the acorns plain. You can roast them. Or you can grind them into flour that will accentuate your rodent stew. Play the "Dual Survival" challenge, featuring survival experts Cody Lundin and Dave Canterbury.