Chill Out: That Fried ‘Rat Head’ at Popeyes Was Probably Just Misplaced ‘Organ Meat’


It’s not uncommon to find foreign objects entombed in prepared food: The mouse in the Chop’t salad. The metal shard in the pizza. Just last week I almost choked to death on a zip tie I found masquerading as a piece of bacon in a breakfast burrito. But the alleged discovery of a rat head in a Harlem Popeyes? No. Fuck no. Ten thousand barfs, I’m never eating again, etc.

The basic facts are that Rosemary Thomas, her sister, her daughter, and her niece — none of whom will ever be the same — were attempting to dine at the the franchise’s West 145th Street location when Rosemary found what looked like a rodent’s head emerging coquettishly from some fried batter. She photographed it and posted several nice, high-res images to Facebook, along with this description:

Friends and family, this is a meal Popeyes in Harlem served my daughter, my niece and sister. This is clearly a rat and they have the nerve to have a 5 rating by the department of health. I’ve sent this picture to DESK@NY1 and no one has contacted me. People please free to share this picture. Think about all the other rat that have been served and the lasting effect this will have on my daughter, niece and sister. The exact address is 2730 Frederick Douglas Blvd.

DNAinfo got in touch with Popeyes spokeswoman Renee Kopowski, who said that any non-chicken items inadvertently tossed into the fryer usually turn out to be organs. (Chicken organs, presumably.) Thomas has been asked to bring the specimen to the restaurant for “product testing,” meaning not only was she forced to reckon with a potential vermin interloper poorly disguised as food, she also had to KEEP it somewhere, like in her freezer next to the ice cubes? She has sensibly retained legal council.

Interestingly, the “product testing” is being conducted not by an outside entity, like the Health Department, but Popeyes themselves, a DOH spokesperson confirmed to the Voice. In fact, the department already re-inspected the restaurant and determined that it’s spick-and-span, and thus allowed to retain its A grade. “The inspection didn’t find any evidence of rat activity in the establishment, or contaminated food,” the DOH spokesperson said. OK!

Anyway, Mass Appeal today spoke again with Kopowski, who seems to have doubled down on her assertion that, indeed, the offending head is in fact just eerily rat-shaped organ meat.

“Our supplier has told us that they’re very sure it’s organ meat,” she said. “They think it’s a chicken organ. It tends to be organ meat.”

Organ meat has certainly been found in fried chicken before. Earlier this year, another unlucky diner found what was identified as either “kidney” or “lung” (who can say) when he bit into his meal at an Australian KFC. A UK gentleman had a similar experience with a kidney in his KFC bucket.

“I have a habit of picking the chicken off the bone with my fingers, and as I pulled the second piece apart, I saw this horrible wrinkled foreign body,” he floridly told the Sun. And here’s a guy whose “woman” brought back some Popeyes, and found what he thinks might be a chicken heart.

“It looks like a little wiener,” he says, wiggling it with his forefinger. “I don’t know why you’re telling me not to say that,” he says to the camera, perhaps to his woman. “There’s no reason that should be in your food.”

On the bright side, if there is one, chicken kidneys are a delicacy in France and China. I don’t know about wieners, though.