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chickened out

Chick-fil-A pivots from homosexuality to hormones

Chick-fil-A is trying to bring it all back to the chicken.

The US fast-food giant—made famous first for its chicken sandwiches, then for its CEO’s opposition to gay marriage—said yesterday it will switch to cooking with hormone-free poultry. “Our commitment is to serve chicken raised without antibiotics in all Chick-fil-A restaurants, nationwide, within five years,” the company said in a statement.

It’s a wise move, considering the negative publicity over the company’s continued support of factory farms. And a bold one, considering that the company sells some 280 million chicken sandwiches annually, each of which contains a full chicken breast. The shift will likely drive prices up, which Chick-fil-A says it will work to control.

There’s no mistaking this as a combination PR stunt and copycat move. Fast-food chain Chipotle’s ethical food pledge, which also includes a commitment to antibiotic free meat, has helped woo record customers every year despite comparatively higher prices. There’s been some question over whether CEO Dan Cathy’s opposition to gay marriage and the company’s ultimate support of him even affected sales (the Georgia-based chain is closely held). One market analyst told the Wall Street Journal: “It’s more of an issue for people in New York, people playing the political game, and people who write stories about it.”

But those might be the very people who like their chicken organic, arsenic-free, sans antibiotics. (How else to explain why conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh titled a 2012 segment “Organic Food and Liberal Ideology?”) Chik-fil-A is taking a chance to win back estranged customers. At least this time it looks like the sizzle from its last controversy is being redirected—to cook much healthier chicken.

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