Friday, March 25, 2011

Bird of Choice

Chicken has long been acclaimed as The People's Choice for Top Dinner Bird beating out Duck, Mute Swan, Turkey, and The Pheasant year after year. Why is chicken so popular? I blame one man. The Colonel.

The average American consumes 60.4 lbs of chicken a year making chicken the choice for 80% of the poultry diets. Let's compare the seemingly boring chicken to America's Favorite Meal, Pizza. Americans plow through 100 acres of pizza a day. 93% of us will eat pizza at least once a month.  Pizza sales in 2009 reached $36.3 Billion!

And chicken is served 2.5 times more than pizza (by weight).

This realization shocked me. Pizza has been at the top of my go-to list for decades. And yet they can't keep up with a little white bird. The Colonel was a visionary man who saw beyond the toppings.

A chicken lover throughout his life, Colonel Harland Sanders began cooking chicken professionally at the age of 40 in 1930. During this time, Americans developed an increased appetite for chicken in lieu of beef which was increasing in price due to the World War. Sanders developed his secret recipe and was given the statehood honor of Kentucky Colonel. He struggled with a failing business for the next 15 years.

In his early 60s, Colonel Sanders franchised his first Kentucky Fried Chicken. Over the next decade, 600 franchises were opened in North America. And then, in 1964, The Colonel must have thought the end was near. He must have been exhausted from all that seasoning. He sold the corporation for $2 million. Still alive, seven years later, Kentucky Fried Chicken was sold again for $284 million. Inflation does not cover that gap.

From the time he was successful to the time he died in 1980, The Colonel wore his identifying white suit and shoestring tie combo. Once he realized that KFC would be a success (though grossly underestimated) he quit shaving and abandoned his former wardrobe. He was a chicken man inside and out. He gave up his appearance and his life for the Chicken Movement. Then he gave up his chicken for cash.

Dave Thomas (conveniently reprinted for your enjoyment) helped The Colonel out during Kentucky Fried's developmental days. He guided Sanders' focus to the important things (chicken) and helped simplify his menu. Why didn't Dave disuade his good friend Harland from selling out too soon? They acted as fast food friends many times before but when The Colonel needed reinforcements, Dave and all other friends left him abandoned. This move (or lack) was worse than sending your healthy grandfather to a desolate care center.

Strong as ever, it wasn't the Double Down or the loss of fortune that eventually did The Colonel in. Age took this legendary hero from us. At 90 years old, this man gave everything he had for the chicken. He sacrificed his appearance, his face, his ingenuity (first man to sell chicken by the bucket), and his original recipe all for our enjoyment. He lost his potential fortune and his friends. All that remains is his fame.

1 comment:

Name = Spencer Hansen said...

I would devote myself to looking like a chicken if it netted me 2 million dollars. Then I would kill myself after I learned I could have had 284.