There´s a disturbing article in Fast Company about the grilled chicken phenomenon. Every fast food restaurant these days is tripping over themselves to provide us with more ways to buy grilled chicken. There are sandwiches, salads, wraps and who knows what else. All of the chicken breasts are suspiciously juicy and uniform, and they all seem to have perfect grill marks on them. It turns out that those chicken breasts haven´t been cooked anywhere near the restaurant you are eating them in. Companies with huge ovens convection bake the breasts and then flash freeze them and ship them out to the various outlets. After they are cooked, red hot branding wheels give them the "authentic´ char marks. The restaurants just warm them up (most often in a microwave) and serve you your "fresh grilled chicken´.
It´s when you get to the part about the juiciness that it gets really disturbing. Before they are cooked, the breasts are soaked in each restaurant´s special combination of oils, sugar, salt, chemicals and fat. McDonald´s cooked breasts consist of 20% of this solution by weight. Burger King´s include chicken fat and 30 other ingredients. One company even makes their chicken breasts taste better by adding beef extract. The result of it all is a chicken breasts that is great to look at and juicy and tasty, but not at all fresh and not nearly as good for you as a chicken breast should be.
Besides making me want to never eat out again, here´s what this article has me thinking about — can we be too productive? I don´t pretend to be a fast food expert, and I have never worked in a restaurant, but it seems to me that if we have to go to those lengths to make a chicken breast look "real´ and taste good, then maybe we should be looking for a new way to prepare it. This method is certainly cost effective and it meets the expectations that consumers have about what a grilled chicken breast should look like, but there is nothing fresh nor grilled about it.
I don´t really care about the fast food industry, but I think that it is a great example of what we have to apply to ourselves. If we strive to be too productive and get too much done, we can often cut the very soul right out of whatever we are trying to do. In other words, I would rather advertise a convection cooked, flash frozen sandwich, even if it cost me lots of sales, if the alternative was to sell something that wasn´t what it appeared. Even if that meant I would be less productive. Productivity is crucial, but it isn´t always paramount.