The Birth of the “Chicken Offset”

The battle over gay rights and the Southern fast food chain Chick-fil-A has dominated the news in the last couple of weeks. 

Kiss-ins, boycotts, and counterprotests have all ensued. But maybe the most clever response to the anti-gay marriage comments is the “chicken offset,” the brainchild of  a lawyer, political operative, and all-around character named Ted Frank (disclosure: one of us – Sprigman – went to law school with Ted).

These build on the existing idea of “carbon offsets,” which started out as a way to bring market flexibility to CO2 emissions caps. If a polluter exceeds a cap, it can purchase an offset. The money that the polluter pays for the offsets supports projects that reduce CO2 emissions – say, the construction of a wind farm. The new, green projects “offset” the bad emissions. 

Today, firms like Brighter Planet offer offsets that consumers can voluntarily purchase to balance out the carbon output of their flying, their houses, their weddings, and even their pets (did you know that the average housecat has a carbon pawprint of over 0.5 ton – mostly from production and transport of cat food?).

Ted’s stroke of inspiration was to tweak the concept of the offset and apply it to chicken sandwiches.  As he explains on his new website, chickenoffsets.com, he loves Chick-fil-A sandwiches, but doesn’t want his love to come at the expense of his gay friends.  And so every time you give in to that chicken sandwich jones, Ted will sell you an offset for $1.  He promises that he’ll give at least 90% of that dollar to pro-gay rights groups. Which is much more than anti-gay groups are going to make on your lunch at Chick-fil-A.

A Parting Shot, Reconsidered

Yesterday we blogged about Mark Bittman’s acrid comment about the death of a Chick-fil-A executive. (It would make a good postscript to our "Legacy of a Jerk" podcast.) Bittman has now apologized and removed the offending language from the original article.

Speaking Ill of the Dead Apparently Okay if the Dead Worked for Chick-fil-A

We recently put out a podcast called "Legacy of a Jerk," which deals in large part with the ancient injunction against speaking ill of the dead. For the most part, this injunction is still widely obeyed. So I was quite surprised to see what Mark Bittman recently wrote on his N.Y. Times blog:

Sysco is the latest food giant—it’s the largest food distributor in the country—to come out against gestation crate confinement of pigs. The National Pork Producers Council’s communications director was quoted in the National Journal saying: “So our animals can’t turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets…I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around.” Really.

Speaking of pigs, the VP of PR for Chick-fil-A dropped dead of a heart attack the week after the chain’s latest homophobia/anti-gay marriage scandal. Here’s an obit, and here’s more about him. Meanwhile, Chick-fil-A had record-breaking profits after its President, Dan Cathy, drew a line in the sand over same-sex marriage.

I read that "speaking of pigs" line three or four times to make sure I understood. At first I thought that Bittman was speaking metaphorically -- that no one had in fact died. (But he did: the man's name was Don Perry.) Then I thought maybe the Times page had been hacked, but that doesn't seem to be the case either. FWIW, here's a screenshot: