Going public: Why did KFC let a TV crew inside its chicken operation?

BBC television, according to Bloomberg Business, is about to give viewers an in-depth look at how KFC raises, kills, and serves millions of chickens to its British customers every year.

kfc.chickenThe fast-food chain gave BBC journalists access to its operations for a three-part documentary, The Billion Dollar Chicken Shop, which starts airing tonight in prime time on the network’s flagship channel.

Was that smart?

British news outlets are already expressing dismay over a BBC trailer and photos that show thousands of chickens being raised in vast sheds on a poultry farm that supplies KFC. The chickens “walk around in their own excrement” before being slaughtered and chopped up, was the none-too-appetizing summary provided by the Daily Mail newspaper. The Independent quoted an animal-rights activist who called the conditions “wretched.” 

The trailer itself is pretty merry, with KFC staff appearing to enjoy the work and the camaraderie.

“At KFC, we are extremely proud of our culture and how we operate the business in the U.K. and Ireland,” including “robust internal quality standards,” a representative for KFC wrote. “When approached to take part in the documentary, we thought it was a rare opportunity to open our doors and share our behind-the-scenes story with the British public.”

The airing of the documentary dovetails with a push by KFC to update its menu and restaurant décor in Britain. KFC appears to be channeling Chipotle Mexican Grill, as it ditches its signature red-and-white plastic look for a trendy new interior design while introducing burritos this month.