|Kyochon F&B's corporate logo / Yonhap|
By Kim Jae-heun
Local fried chicken restaurant chains are having a hard time supplying meat to their branches after bird flu ravaged 100 farms nationwide, resulting in the culling of over 28.61 million birds.
Korea's largest fried chicken franchise, Kyochon F&B, recently posted a notice online that two of its menu items, "chicken wings" and "chicken wings and legs," were temporarily out of stock.
Kyochon's best-selling menu items are specific parts of chickens and the bird flu epidemic has made it especially hard for it to supply meat compared to other franchises.
With only two wings per chicken, it takes several chickens to make up the menu item.
|Kyochon F&B's popular "Red Original" chicken menu item / Courtesy of Kyochon F&B|
Also, bigger chickens are used and the items are composed of certain cuts of meat instead of serving the whole bird.
"As the avian influenza outbreak drags on, poultry farmers cannot wait until their chicken are fully grown, because they can get infected at any time. So they kill the birds when they reach a certain size and send the meat to processing companies," an official at one fried chicken franchise said.
Genesis BBQ, another major fried chicken franchise, is also having problems supplying meat. Its employees are visiting chicken farms across the country in search of healthy birds.
The company is said to have supplied about 98 percent of the chicken its franchisees need.
"Apart from chicken farms that are under contract to supply us meat, we are looking for new farms. Even if we find one now, it will take a month for the chicken to grow," a Genesis BBQ official said.
Prices of fried chicken sold at restaurants are expected to rise too.
According to the Korea Broiler Council last Thursday, the price of a kilogram of chicken rose 16.2 percent to 3,308 won compared to three months ago.
This is forcing fried chicken restaurant chains to consider raising prices even though they have set limits due to fears of a backlash from customers.
"When the price surges to a certain point, the headquarters shoulders the burden and not the franchisees or customers. It is obvious that the price of chicken has increased, but we cannot increase our menu prices because customers will definitely oppose it," a Kyochon F&B official said.