from the world's big
A map of London’s fried chicken obsession
The British capital's love affair with buckets and nuggets, explained
- Fried chicken is London's favorite fast food.
- There are more than 8,000 chicken shops in the British capital.
- This map shows which brands dominate where.
Chicken shop capital of the world
Formerly the Star and Garter pub in east London, now Whitechapel Fried Chicken.
Image credit: Ewan Munro, CC BY-SA 2.0
London likes to think of itself as the capital of the world. It certainly is the world capital of the fried chicken shop.
For many Londoners, a night out isn't complete without a visit to their local chicken shop. For many others, fried chicken is a quick, cheap, and tasty substitute for a healthy meal. That's why there are more than 8,000 purveyors of processed poultry in the British capital.
Fried chicken, often served with chips, is the reincarnation of that British fast food staple, fish and chips, adapted to the spicier tastes of London's immigrant communities — many chicken shops are halal, for instance.
London being London, even the lowly chicken shop has been gentrified. You can get your upmarket fried fowl at gourmet versions with ironic names like "Mother Clucker" and "Absurd Bird." There's even a vegan version called "Temple of Seitan (sic)."
But the standard chicken shop is still decidedly downmarket and comes with a fair bit of social stigma attached. The fried chicken shop has even become a yardstick for the undesirability of an area in terms of real estate. The Coffee vs. Chicken Index measures the number of coffee shops and chicken shops in a given area. More coffee shops means the neighborhood is gentrifying. A preponderance of chicken shops suggests the opposite (the area is gently frying).
KFC is the cock of the block, but Londoners love their local brands too.
Image: Heikki Vesanto
There's more than a whiff of fried chicken in the air in Mile End Road, in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets. It has so many chicken shops it's also known as the Chicken Shop Mile. There are 42 chicken shops for each secondary school in the borough. Not coincidentally, Tower Hamlets has the sixth-highest rate of child obesity in the U.K. One in four kids aged 11 is obese.
The link between childhood obesity and fried fast food is more than anecdotal. Many chicken shops have offers are explicitly aimed at children. In retaliation, some local councils now forbid hot food takeaway restaurants close to schools. But as this map shows, chicken shops are as much London landmarks as red double decker buses. Innumerable chains compete for the favor of the chicken-loving customer. This map shows some of the larger brands.
Cock of the block is Kentucky Fried Chicken, which opened its first London outlet in Finchley in 1968. KFC's success spawned a legion of competitors, often echoing the southern flavor of the chain's name – see Dallas Chicken & Ribs and Dixy Chicken, for instance.
While KFC dominates in various areas across the capital, some chains have a very local, fiercely loyal fan base. Morley's, for instance, is a mainly south London phenomenon. Havering is Chicken Valley.
This map was made by Heikki Vesanto, who adds: "It's a simple Voronoi network for the closest fried chicken restaurant, but it is missing quite a few establishments. I would need a better source of restaurants." Time for some finger-licking field work.
Map reproduced with kind permission of Heikki Vesanto.
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Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Here's why you might eat greenhouse gases in the future.
- The company's protein powder, "Solein," is similar in form and taste to wheat flour.
- Based on a concept developed by NASA, the product has wide potential as a carbon-neutral source of protein.
- The man-made "meat" industry just got even more interesting.
Seriously sustainable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDIzNS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjM4NTMzMX0.BCEfYnn6C3z1zUHIS38xOWjXktgamNBi5iyqklSMYK8/img.png?width=980" id="ea524" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="50533380eeb18eb5833b6b6aa3abec38" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>Solar Foods makes Solein by extracting CO₂ from air using <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90356326/we-have-the-tech-to-suck-co2-from-the-air-but-can-it-suck-enough-to-make-a-difference" target="_blank">carbon-capture technology</a>, and then combines it with water, nutrients and vitamins, using 100 percent renewable solar energy from partner <a href="https://www.fortum.com" target="_blank">Fortum</a> to promote a natural fermentation process similar to the one that produces yeast and lactic acid bacteria.</p><p>When the company claims its single-celled protein is "free from agricultural limitations," they're not kidding. Being produced indoors means Solar Foods is not dependent on arable land, water (i.e., rain), or favorable weather.</p><p>The company is already working with the European Space Agency to develop foods for off-planet production and consumption. (The idea for Solein actually began at NASA.) They also see potential in bringing protein production to areas whose climate or ground conditions make conventional agriculture impossible.</p><p>And let's not forget all those <a href="https://www.bk.com/menu-item/impossible-whopper" target="_blank">beef-free burgers</a> based on pea and soy proteins currently gaining popularity. The environmental challenge of scaling up the supply of those plants to meet their high demand may provide an opening for the completely renewable Solein — the company could provide companies that produce animal-free "meats," such as <a href="https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/" target="_blank">Beyond Meat</a> and <a href="https://impossiblefoods.com" target="_blank">Impossible Foods</a>, a way to further reduce their environmental impact.</p>
The larger promise<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MDI0MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjU4MTg2OX0.7dZZYT5WEV_EupBuLVFwHynarTiz8RYR9aJtC6Ts2C4/img.jpg?width=980" id="3415d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2e6eebe06d795f844752f9e9d30040d7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Solar Foods<p>The impact of the beef — and for that matter, poultry, pork, and fish — industries on our planet is widely recognized as one of the main drivers behind climate change, pollution, habitat loss, and antibiotic-resistant illness. From the cutting down of rainforests for cattle-grazing land, to runoff from factory farming of livestock and plants, to the disruption of the marine food chain, to the overuse of antibiotics in food animals, it's been disastrous.</p><p>The advent of a promising source of protein derived from two of the most renewable things we have, CO₂ and sunlight, <a href="https://solarfoods.fi/environmental-impact/" target="_blank">gets us out of the planet-destruction business</a> at the same time as it offers the promise of a stable, long-term solution to one of the world's most fundamental nutritional needs.</p>
Solar Foods' timetable<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTk0MTEzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTU5OTU1OTMwMn0.wnXh56iO_77x2XKV2uIPf78BKw4AJLUpmiyq_JBVGvo/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=172%2C146%2C62%2C135&height=700" id="0297c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="125c9a98ec818f5c241fa28ef1423e67" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image source: Lubsan / Shutterstock / Big Think<p>While company plans are always moderated by unforeseen events — including the availability of sufficient funding — Solar Foods plans a global commercial rollout for Solein in 2021 and to be producing two million meals annually, with a revenue of $800 million to $1.2 billion by 2023. By 2050, they hope to be providing sustenance to 9 billion people as part of a $500 billion protein market.</p><p>The project began in 2018, and this year, they anticipate achieving three things: Launching Solein (check), beginning the approval process certifying its safety as a Novel Food in the EU, and publishing plans for a 1,000-metric ton-per-year factory capable of producing 500 million meals annually.</p>
The protein powder Solein. Image source: SOLAR FOODS
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