Where's the beef? McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) will promote its heartier Chicken Selects version of nuggets for a short period of time, handing out free samples of the fare at many of its outlets. Free stuff, you might ask? What gives? Such a maneuver might sound like something's amiss with the Chicken Selects product line, but the company would have you think otherwise.

Granted, the traditional chicken McNuggets' processing certainly looked to me like like someone had run over them with a train and then breaded the leavings, of course, so it's always been difficult to imagine that Chicken Selects' more naturalistic look wouldn't do well with McDonald's consumers. Indeed, according to USA Today, McDonald's says the chicken fare has been doing well, but apparently this maneuver is so that the company can seal the deal.

It's not lost on many of us that the low-carb, high-protein diets seem to be on the downturn, fizzling from hot fad into just another diet choice. Although the USA Today article did say that McDonald's denies any slowdown in beef consumption, one can't argue with the idea of supporting Mickey D's chicken options when the truth is that the recent love affair with beef in this country is likely cooling down into more like a long-term commitment than a sizzling obsession.

The power of poultry hasn't been lost on many fast-food outlets. Burger King has definitely been out to exploit the white meat, with ad campaigns that included the wacky and strangely subversive Web campaign, "Subservient Chicken." Wendy's (NYSE:WEN) may have originated the phrase "Where's the beef?" that I borrowed above, but it also has some chicken-oriented items roosting on its menu.

Gosh, the list goes on. We all know Yum! Brands' (NYSE:YUM) KFC specializes in chicken comfort. AFC (NYSE:AFC) brings us Popeye's Cajun brand of fried chicken. Private but popular Chick-fil-A wouldn't stoop to serving beef at all.

At any rate, for those of you who have been curious but never tried Chicken Selects, the free offer extends from Thursday through Sunday of this week, when 4 million will be handed out. Although investors may wince at the idea of free fare being doled out beneath the Golden Arches, it's an aggressive move and shows that McDonald's won't play chicken compared to rivals.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.