This word has been used a lot to describe the chickens who are farmed and slaughtered for meat. But where did this name come from, and why is it so accurate?
What Is a Frankenchicken?
In Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein, Dr Frankenstein creates a human-like being, known as ‘the monster’. It is this creation of a sentient being who would not have lived naturally that has led campaigners to apply the prefix ‘Franken’ to the poor birds who are also purpose-bred, and could not have arisen naturally.
The Creation of the Frankenchicken
Farms are businesses motivated by their profit sheets. Bigger birds, and especially those with larger breasts, bring larger profits, and so the industry has sought ways to make birds grow ever bigger and ever faster. This began with intensification in the 1940s, and today almost every chicken farmed in the US is reared inside a vast warehouse, and is forced to grow too big too quickly. As a result, they suffer appallingly throughout their short lives.
Through genetic manipulation, and also the manipulation of light and feed, these poor birds are forced to grow at an alarmingly unnatural rate. By the age of just six weeks, when really they are still young chicks, their bodies have ballooned to monstrous sizes. If you look at them closely, you will see they have the blue eyes of a chick, and they still tweet and chirrup like babies, but their bodies are huge. This unnatural growth puts a huge strain on their hearts and lungs, and also on their bones.
Every year, millions of birds inside US factory farms die inside those farms. They die when their hearts give out – unable to pump blood around their huge bodies. They die from respiratory conditions when their lungs give out. And they die from complications arising from broken bones, which are too weak to withstand the unnatural weight.
For the industry, it’s a cynical calculation. If enough birds can survive those six-to-eight weeks to make the flock profitable, then the fact that tens of thousands of creatures don’t survive is simply disregarded. None of the ailing birds are seen by a vet; they simply suffer to death, uncared for, and untreated. Many millions more birds may be sick and suffering, or living with broken legs or broken wings. Again, this does not matter to the industry. So long as those birds make it to the slaughterhouse, there is profit to be made.
Better Chicken Commitment
Lots of farmers and producers are signing up to the Better Chicken Commitment, which seeks to improve the welfare of these poor birds. They agree to a number of regulations about how the birds are to be kept, including making a commitment to using slower growing breeds, and ensuring the birds are not live-shackled at the slaughterhouse – a system that only adds to their suffering, especially for those birds shackled by broken legs.
However, this is an industry where not everything is as it seems. In 2022, KFC released a promotional film in the UK showcasing its flagship high-welfare farm and boasting about being signed up to The Better Chicken Commitment. We tracked down the farm and took an independent look at it. And guess what? Those high-welfare claims turned out to be hogwash.
Take a look at what we found.
How to Avoid Eating Frankenchickens
Almost every chicken farmed in the US, Europe, and many other parts of the world, is a ‘Frankenchicken’. They are all forced to grow too fast, to endure the same pitiless systems in the same warehouses, and to suffer the same fate.
The only way to avoid contributing to this is to stop eating chickens – and turkeys, geese, and ducks who are farmed in the same way – and choose plant-based chick*n products, like VFC Fillets, Tenders, and Popcorn Chick*n instead. These foods look, cook, and taste like chicken but they come without inflicting suffering and slaughter on a baby bird. (And they also have a much healthier environmental footprint.)
The modern farming system causes appalling suffering to animals in the name of profit-boosting, and chickens arguably get the very worst of it. That’s why VFC exists – to expose these systems of suffering, while also offering a tantalizing meat-free alternative to all our favorite chicken-based meals.