Big News: Rev. Al Sharpton has joined with PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals), as well as Rap music mogul Russell Simmons, in a boycott of KFC, charging the chain with serial mistreatment of chickens. Is Al channeling Claude Rains in Casablanca? "I'm shocked, SHOCKED!, that there's gambling going on in this establishment."

I used to work for the ad agency that long handled Perdue's advertising account. Let me tell you--There's a reason why they don't do tours at chicken processing plants. It's something akin, if you can imagine, to walking into an operating room and being able to view the surgery from inside the wound.

KFC, Perdue and its other chicken producing peer companies are not giving PETA much traction. That's their prerogative. But if KFC continues to see same-store sales decline, I predict they wake up to the realities of their business model.

Years ago, KFC, owned by Yum Brands, changed its name from Kentucky Fried Chicken. The idea was that it was bad karma in an era of health consciousness to have "Fried" as your middle name. I said then, and I say now, that they made a terrible mistake. The better idea would have been to rename the chain, "Colonel Sanders." KFC will never stand for anything. At least with the Colonel, there is an identity, even if he was a nutty old coot as journalists have reported.

I suspect part of the reason KFC's business is in decline is that it has a lousy penetration of the kid market. The menu items don't appeal to kids and they don't do much in the way of Happy Meal marketing to attract kids. That means they lose the whole market of parents coerced to go to the fast food joints by the kids.

Teenagers I know vastly prefer pizza and burgers to a bucket of "chicken" these days.

This is very subjective, I know. But the KFC menu is shockingly unhealthy and un-appetizing except for those who just don't care about what they are eating. The last two times I ate KFC products, about three years ago (the BBQ wings one visit and a meal including extra-crispy on another), I felt, frankly, like I had ingested poison. And I can be a rugged eater. Last week, I dined on offal, including goat heart and lamb kidneys. Seriously. The KFC stuff has gone from being an ocassional guilty pleasure for a self-acknowledged food marm like me to something that I'd only consider eating if I knew I would need to justify a trip to see the school nurse later to dodge an Algebra exam.

I'd say KFC was due for a makeover, and they might consider starting with a menu re-do, and an attitude re-do about how they treat their chickens. Just a thought.

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