Quick casual concept Birdbox uses an unusual fried chicken sandwich with the clamp attached to make a poultry welfare statement.
“Disturbingly, chickens produced in industrial poultry factories are often beaten so badly that their legs and heads have to be removed. Years of these practices have made it easy for us all to get used to and accept chemically sterilized, loose cuts of meat,” partners Chris Bleidorn and Aarti Shetty told Restaurant Business.
According to the Birdbox website, sourcing whole animals helps the fast casual ensure meat quality, showcase the tastiest aspects of each portion through precise cooking, and develop a more sustainable menu. The original free-range, organic, pasture-raised fried chickens for Claude la Griffe come from Pasturebird and Mary’s Chicken.
Birdbox began as a pop-up menu in 2020 when its parent restaurant, two-Michelin-starred Birdsong, was forced to close its dining room during the pandemic. Sales of the $20 chicken sandwich with a tong attached were obviously big enough for the spinoff to open its first physical location in the summer of 2022.
Whole Animal Poultry Welfare Claims Simply Aren’t True
I have several thoughts on this sandwich, nicknamed “Claude la Griffe” by the fans.
First off, this isn’t the most unusual chicken sandwich the WATTPoultry editors have seen. That honor goes to Airheads Candy Chicken Sandy, your typical chicken sandwich housed in a colorful candy confection that acts like a bun. Compared to that, Claude la Griffe looks downright ordinary.
I also support efforts to find more uses for the whole bird, but not for the reasons cited by Bleidorn and Shetty. In many parts of the world, but not in the United States, chicken feet are considered a delicacy. In the United States, this part is considered a by-product and discarded if not exported.
In China, chicken feet are euphemistically known as “phoenix talons” and are in such demand that they can be more expensive to obtain than any other chicken meat. The United States exported more than 201,000 metric tons of chicken meat to China in 2020, according to a presentation by USAPEEC President Jim Sumner at the Chicken Marketing Summit 2021.
This fact also refutes Bleidorn and Shetty’s claims that the only way to ensure poultry welfare is to purchase whole birds. Buying the whole bird can help brands save money, as Wingstop has proven by adding chicken thighs to their menus. However, if the excess chicken pieces were so spoiled, as they claim, we would be exporting a lot less chicken feet to China.
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