BEYOND FRIED CHICKEN SHOULD BE CALLED “UNLIKE FRIED CHICKEN”
by Andrew Chalk
The rush to introduce non meat versions of popular meat favorites at fast food chains is an uneven one. Kentucky Fried Chicken (which recently decided its chicken was no longer “finger-lickin’ good”) has worked with Beyond Meat to introduce Beyond Fried Chicken. Pea extract takes the place of meat. Since January 10th, 2022 three products on the KFC menu feature the product which is sold at all US outlets.
So what does it taste like? I bought the least expensive option, the 6 piece Beyond Nuggets. At $7 it is about the same (or higher) price of a whole uncooked real chicken at most supermarkets. KFC does not sell a chicken nugget for direct comparison of taste or price but my experience with such products at another fast food restaurant, McDonald’s, is that nuggets don’t taste like chicken. Rather, chicken provides a fibrous base for a simple but dominant seasoning (salt and pepper). Add the starchy batter and the melange of flavors in the mouth really does not have much to do with chicken.
That makes the chicken nugget an easy target for the pea extract nugget. If it were to be juxtaposed against roast chicken, for example, the taste difference would be glaring.
Beyond Fried Chicken, battered and seasoned, tastes of batter and seasoning. The texture in the mouth is like a rubbery lasagna - sheets of something like sliced American Cheese but without dissolving like sliced cheese. You just have to chew it. Get plenty of sauce, the pea extract has little or no flavor.
I would not buy it again.
Some other opinions are already out. In this PC era you are only supposed to say nice things (“Yes, Mr. Hitler was under a lot of stress”) and give everyone a participation trophy. Thankfully, there is still the New York Post which described Beyond Fried Chicken as “beyond awful”. Consumer Reports managed to find five staffers who spouted the editorial line and so were “mainly positive” (they didn’t dare try it on actual consumers). They also quoted their associate director of product sustainability, research, and testing who onerously intoned “It takes over 468 gallons of water just to produce one pound of chicken and much less to produce a protein made from plants”. Based on this logic, we could save even more water by not eating. And that isn’t the point. If the results are this awful then use the extra water to make real chicken. It’s the best use.
I expect a huge initial demand for Beyond Fried Chicken, reflecting its novelty. Everyone who hasn’t been killed by COVID will try it once, but that is all.