KFC struggles to give chicken away after store supply crisis

KFC is struggling to find charities to which it can donate thousands of tonnes of surplus chicken that has been stored in an unregistered depot during a supply crisis that has closed more than 200 stores for almost a week, inquiries by the Guardian suggest.

On Wednesday, the fast-food chain admitted that it would have to destroy at least some of the chicken at a cold storage facility in Rugby. It is run by DHL, the company in charge of a troubled supply contract with 900 KFC outlets.

The depot is due to be registered on Thursday after an emergency visit by Rugby council inspectors.

KFC said it was trying to minimise the amount of chicken it will have to destroy as a result of the closures and has approached at least one food charity about the surplus.

When asked on Twitter whether the chicken would end up in landfill, KFC said it was trying to minimise wastage.

But several charities contacted by the Guardian were reluctant to accept it.

FareShare, which fights against hunger and food waste, was offered some of the surplus chicken but insisted on safety checks before agreeing to take it.

Alyson Walsh, the charity’s commercial director, said: “FareShare only redistributes good quality, in date, surplus food, which has been stored in a robust way. We have been approached by KFC and will do our own due diligence on health and safety compliance, as we do with all of our food partners.”

A spokeswoman for Rugby food bank said: “We too hate to see food waste, but we only take long-life, ambient food items – tins and packets. We don’t have freezers.”

The Trussell Trust, which runs a network of more than 400 food banks including the one in Rugby, said it had not been contacted by KFC. It would direct any KFC queries to food redistribution charities such as FareShare or FoodCycle, a spokeswoman said.

Mary McGrath, the chief executive of FoodCycle, said: “We don’t use chicken or any meat because it is difficult to handle. If you don’t know what you are doing, you can poison people.

“We have 4,000 volunteers cook our food and to ensure that our guests are fed safely and nutritiously, we do not handle meat, because you cannot ensure the provenance of the meat and that the chill chain has been maintained.”

However, she urged KFC not dump any waste chicken. “Dumping chicken into landfill would be shocking. They should be giving it further up the food waste chain,” McGrath said.

“There is a food waste hierarchy: you give to people first, then you give to animals, the next layer down is anaerobic digestion, when it is sent to a digester that will ferment the food and turn into energy, then there’s composting and then you are at landfill. There is plenty to do with food before you just throw [it] in the ground.”

McGrath suggested donating the surplus chicken to a homelessness charity such as St Mungo’s.

A spokeswoman for St Mungo’s said she was not sure whether it could accept a large quantity of surplus KFC chicken. It suggested the homelessness charity Centrepoint, which has a greater presence in the Rugby area.

But Centrepoint said its local partners would also struggle to accept it.

Paul Noblet, the head of public affairs at Centrepoint, said: “KFC’s heart is obviously in the right place, but most charities do not have the logistical capability to safely transport, store and prepare such a large quantity of fresh food.

“KFC could distribute it to its restaurants and cafes throughout the country, and provide free meal vouchers for people in need to access the food through these routes instead.

On Thursday morning, an updated list from KFC showed 692 of its stores were open, leaving 208 still closed.

A consumer backlash against KFC has prompted police to urge the public to desist from complaining about the closures. Appeals to stop people wasting police time on the issue have been made in Tower Hamlets in east London, Whitefield in Greater Manchester and in West Yorkshire.