2011-04-11

Co.Exist

Chickileaks: McDonald's and a Strange Farm-Fresh Chicken Campaign in China

Nobody goes to McDonald's in the U.S. expecting to buy chicken nuggets made out of healthy, fairly-treated chickens; they just want crunchy nuggets, no questions asked. Things are a little different in China, where food safety is a major concern, especially after scandals like the one in 2008 where milk and infant formula throughout the country was tainted
with melamine, a plastic used to make countertops and dry-erase
boards.

In a funny role reversal, western fast-food joints have become places for urban Chinese to make sure their food is of a certain level of quality. To reinforce that notion, McDonald's has launched the Chickileaks campaign (the actual translation is "unveil the secret of chicken
grown"), an initiative that is intended to give Chinese customers more insight into the company's chicken supply chain.

The campaign features a TV advertisement (a child playing with chicks that will presumably later be ground up into delicious chicken nuggets), as well as a series of online videos showing "reporters" visiting McDonald's farms and speaking with technicians and scientists that work with chickens, according to Advertising Age. In one of the spots (shown below), the "reporters" eat chicken feed to demonstrate just how tasty it is.

The goal is not exactly to convince customers that their chicken was raised in an environmentally-friendly way; it's to prove that the chicken is safe. When we contacted McDonald's China, we were told that their emphasis is on food safety, with regularly-vaccinated chicken flocks, the ability to track where chicken flocks come from (presumably in case of contamination), and animal and transport disinfection certificates. We're not talking about organic, free-range chicken here. It's more like "don't blame us" chicken.

"We source from designated suppliers who
provide exclusive supply chain management for McDonald’s China. McDonald’s ensures
that these suppliers adhere to the strictest precautionary measures and are in
compliance with all Government food safety standards," explained Betty Tian, a McDonald's China communications representative, in an email.

We tend to believe that McDonald's is telling the truth about its food safety standards; there is no benefit for the company in cutting corners on this issue. But what we'd really like to see is a day in the life of a Chinese McDonald's chicken. It may be a safe existence, but it's probably not too pleasant.

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.

[Photo via Zoetnet]

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