Since I moved to Prague, my biggest guilty pleasure has become KFC. I’m not sure why it tastes better than KFC in the US, but I set out to find out.
I’ve never been a fan of fast food, so when I first moved here and my friend told me after a night of drinking and dancing that we should get KFC, my reaction was “Ew. No, thank you.” But he assured me that KFC here was actually incredible. So I reluctantly agreed to split a bucket of chicken with him. And sure enough, incredible it was. I thought the taste had been improved by the alcohol so I tried it sober another day. And to my surprise, it was still just as good.
The Czech KFC menu features several products that are not available in US fast food stores like the Twister wrap or the Qurrito quesadilla, made with spicy breaded chicken. They also have a whole line of B-Smart meals that are lower in calories and cost as little as $2 if you just want a snack, like one piece of chicken and a few fries.
And though I do enjoy some of the region-specific meals, the improved taste was more general than that. Strip for strip, drumstick for drumstick, the chicken in the Czech Republic just tastes better. Even though it’s the same “age-old recipe with 11 secret herbs and spices,” something about the chicken here is more flavorful and delicious. And you don’t get the same gross feeling after eating KFC here as you do in the US.
KFC in the US
According to KFC’s own website, “each fresh batch of the world’s best chicken starts with our cooks inspecting each individual piece. Then, our fresh chicken is carefully rolled 7 times in our secret blend of 11 herbs & spices before being rocked 7 times and then pressure cooked at a low temperature to preserve all the great taste we’re known for around the world.” Pretty specific, though it doesn’t tell you where the chicken comes from before it’s prepared.
So where does the chicken come from? The KFC blog debunks the “mutant chicken myth” with a post that says that KFC is made from 100% real chicken from US farms. Supposedly these chickens do not include artificial hormones or steroids. This is in adherence with their parent company Yum! Brands’ Supplier Code of Conduct. But when you read this code on genetically modified foods, it states that “we follow all government regulations wherever we operate. In some countries, GMOs are generally accepted, whereas in other countries consumers are more resistant to GMOs. Where resistance to GMOs exists, we require our suppliers to provide non-GMO ingredients.”
The US accounts for 63% of all genetically modified crops planted in the world. So even if your chickens aren’t pumped full of steroids to make them grow three times as big as normal in half the time, you better believe that those KFC chickens are gobbling up some GMO corn, which is USDA approved and makes up 80% of all corn production in the country. Because if you think the only way the government is letting you die is with assault rifles, then you haven’t heard the horrors of the American food industry.
So what about the Czech Republic? What are they doing differently over at KFC?
KFC in the Czech Republic
The Czech KFC website is a lot more forthcoming about their products and the source of their products. According to the site, the chicken used in Czech KFC restaurants is delivered 2 to 3 times a week from local, nearby farms. So everything that you eat in the Czech Republic comes from the Czech Republic. And as in US chains, the chicken is prepared by hand right before serving. So it could have to do with freshness, but as it turns out, the chicken in the US is also delivered fresh and not frozen.
So maybe the difference is what the Czech farms are doing differently. Czech farms, like all farms in Europe, are guided by rigid European production standards that ensure that food is safe, there’s a high level of animal welfare, and a lot of transparency about ingredients, origins, and food preparation.
According to these standards, it’s against the law to add antibiotics, hormones or growth stimulators to animal feed. Proper breeding conditions are also strictly enforced, which ensures that the animals are treated humanely and that the farm is maintaining sanitary conditions. And as a consumer in the EU, your food label includes information about everything from the production process, conditions, and locations.
And therein lies the difference. The poorly treated chickens that eat nothing but genetically modified crap in hygienically questionable conditions just don’t taste that good. Chickens taste better when they’re happy and when they’re eating real grain grown in the earth instead of a lab.
So it’s not my imagination. Despite being just another mediocre fast food company that operates at the lowest levels acceptable by law, KFC in the Czech Republic is much better than KFC in the US. Simply because the law is more stringent. The 11 herbs and spices might be old Colonel Sander’s recipe, but the chicken that it seasons is definitely superior.