KFC finally goes boneless

Yum Brands thinks the move will bring young folks flocking back to fried chicken, but the popularity of wings and other poultry offerings suggest bones aren't the issue.

By Jason Notte Apr 5, 2013 3:01PM
Handout photo from KFC showing the company's new boneless chicken (copyright KFC/AP Photo)It's been nearly 30 years since McDonald's (MCD) first poured chicken slurry into a mold and called it a McNugget, but somehow it's taken that long for a chain once named Kentucky Fried Chicken to go boneless.

Yum Brands' (YUM) KFC announced Friday that it will be introducing deep-fried boneless chicken pieces as an alternative to its bony Original Recipe and Extra Crispy leg, thigh and breast pieces. Yet instead of rolling out this product around the world -- or even in its key market of China, where company-owned stores heavily outnumber individually owned franchises -- KFC will only offer the new boneless variety in the U.S.

Why just here in the U.S., and in test markets like Omaha, Neb., and Oklahoma City specifically? One could argue that bones just get in the way of the American fast-food eater's prime objective of cramming as much product into his or her mouth as quickly as possible without pesky obstacles like chicken skeleton. The real answer, however, comes from Generation McNugget.

"Younger people don't tend to be fans of bones -- they've grown up with nuggets," says KFC spokesman Rick Maynard.

That's right, there are eaters in their 20s and early 30s who have never known an America in which boneless chicken in bite-sized form wasn't an option. McDonald's and Burger King (BKW) have offered nuggets and chicken strips for years, with McDonald's adding chicken McWraps and McBites to their portable chicken offerings in recent years. Even Chick-Fil-A, whose namesake boneless chicken sandwiches seem perfectly portable and edible on their own, has caved and begun offering nuggets.

KFC, for its part, started offering “bites” and chicken strips with dipping sauce just last year. The company now says four out of every five pieces of chicken consumed in the U.S. is boneless and hopes that sawing skinless chicken muscle off the bone can help boost sales here. In the country that introduced wide-mouth beverage cans because it felt consumers weren't drinking quickly enough, this doesn't come as much of a surprise.

But in a market where Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) -- and its extremely bony chicken bits -- is a growing, thriving business in a slumping casual dining category, the notion that Americans can't handle bones in their chicken sounds a bit suspect. KFC has been attempting what Seeking Alpha considers a shift “away from the traditional bucket of boned chicken a la the Colonel Sanders days” since introducing “Kentucky Grilled Chicken” in 2009, but McDonald's flirtation with chicken wings and soaring demand at chicken outlets like Pollo Tropical make KFC's claims seem as boneless as their new product.

While analysts view KFC's move as a can't-lose scenario, KFC might want to consider that the bones may not be the reason younger generations aren't buying fried chicken by the bucketload anymore.

More on moneyNOW

Apr 5, 2013 4:18PM
We love KFC and are looking forward to the new product. But isn't the chicken tender the same thing.
Sounds like they're bowing to self entitled brats to me.
Apr 5, 2013 4:07PM
The fried chicken I had made for me at home when I was younger was 10 times better than anything KFC ever did.  And if we did go to KFC, it was about 20 minutes away, so the chicken would be cold by the time we got home.  Funny how the KFC that was in our area is closed now.  Hmm...
Apr 5, 2013 8:15PM
"If you can't handle it, use a spork!" is what I blogged in response to this news. 

I say that taking the bones out of fried chicken is like taking the backbone out of America! 

You can read my article here on our Claiborne House B&B Coffee Talk Blog:  http://blog.claibornehouse.net/2013/04/if-you-cant-handle-it-use-spork.html
Apr 7, 2013 10:31PM
Bring back the original chicken little. The bite size little sandwich was the bomb.
Apr 7, 2013 7:58PM
sorry about my response but some I was in another post and got switched the kfc post
Apr 5, 2013 4:25PM
The author is wrong.  KFC had chicken nuggets in the early/mid 80's, right after McDonalds introduced them.  I worked there and had to throw them in the deep fryer....one of their sauces was horseradish...another was plain honey...
Apr 6, 2013 12:36PM

"Younger people don't tend to be fans of bones -- they've grown up with nuggets," says KFC spokesman Rick Maynard.


Too much trouble to eat the chicken and toss the bones in trash ? I'm guessing they wouldn't care much for a slab of ribs or a t-bone steak. Did momma cut the crust off the bread when she made your sandwiches ? If she was the one making the chicken I doubt she would bone and filet it for you first.

Apr 5, 2013 7:08PM
drove big rigs for years averaged 40 to 55k-- Why would I waste my time and get screwed on college loans to start at 30k a year.
Apr 7, 2013 4:47PM
Does really <b>no one</b> know that KFC creates FRANKENBIRDS, and is serving them to the public as FOOD...?
Apr 5, 2013 4:02PM
why not the millionaires and they get money from every avenue they can, thats why their milionaires.  Yes but just another reason why the system needs to be changed, betweem the lazy poeple living off the system, the women who are single and still live with the father of their children who by the way have a job but yet they still collect dependant child care and get a couple grand back on taxes every year and now the rich  not paying hardly any tax and taking every penny they can get thier hands on,  the working class(by this I mean middle class people who actual have a job in this long going recession) can't support everyone.
Apr 6, 2013 12:39AM
"...the popularity...suggests" not suggest.  Please correct.
Apr 5, 2013 3:45PM
Bought peaches at Walmart and a box of strawberries.  This has never happened before but Peaches were rotten inside and the strawberries got all moldy in a couple of days.  I threw the slip out would of taken them back.  BEWARE OF PRODUCE.  We always had good luck w/ the produce
now they will be getting a lot of veggies and fruit back.  The peaches seem like they had frozen.  Well anyway all this takes time and gas.

Unbelievable how they treat their help also.  How do they get away w/ all of this. Pay the employees
nothing.  Living in a tourist vacation area our people need their jobs and believe me they take advantage of that.  There are a few that stay for years but very few.  The turnover is unbelievable. I know I was in the Personnel Dept. for a few months. I could say a lot more being from the Human Resource background just use your imagination and I am sure you will hit on what is going on.
Apr 5, 2013 7:11PM
The article mentions the popularity of bony wings at Buffalo Wild Wings, but they serve boneless as well, with specials on Thursdays
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