NEW YORK - KFC is stripping out the bones to make it easier for people to eat its chicken.
The fast-food chain is introducing deep-fried boneless chicken pieces on April 14 as an alternative to its traditional breast, thigh and drumstick pieces.
The new offering reflects the growing popularity of nuggets and strips that are easier to eat on the go, as well as Americans' seemingly endless desire for more convenient foods. KFC says nearly four out of five servings of fried chicken in the U.S. are now boneless.
Based on customer trends, the company says chicken with bones could eventually be pushed off its menu.
The new boneless, skinless pieces are about twice the size of KFC's crispy strips and come in white or dark meat. Customers can order them for the meal deals, which include two pieces, a side, a biscuit and a drink for $4.99. They also come in buckets, which include four pieces of boneless chicken and six pieces of chicken with bones for $14.99. The boneless chicken option costs the same as the regular fried chicken.
A piece of the boneless white meat has 200 calories and 8 grams of fat. A dark meat piece has 250 calories.
Spokesman Rick Maynard said it took two to three years to develop its version of boneless chicken, which he said performed strongly in test markets including Oklahoma City and Omaha last year. He said the new boneless pieces will also replace the chicken filets used in sandwiches. Last year, KFC also introduced its smaller, boneless "bites," as well as "Dip'ems" chicken strips that come with a variety of sauces.
KFC has more than 18,000 restaurants around the world, including more than 4,500 in the U.S. Its parent company Yum Brands Inc. also owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, which have also been introducing major new menu offerings in recent months.
Despite its choppy performance in the U.S. in recent years, Yum has enjoyed a streak of growth as a result of its presence in China. Yum is the largest Western fast-food operator in the country with about 5,300 locations, most of them KFC restaurants.
But since late last year, the company has been working to overcome a scare over its chicken supply in China that has hammered sales. Yum, based in Louisville, Ky., has warned that it expects its profit in 2013 to decline, snapping an 11-year streak of double-digit growth.
Shares of Yum Brands fell $2.17, or 3.2 percent, to $65.58 in morning trading as broad market indicators sagged on weaker than expected U.S. job growth in March.