Fried chicken with a claw needs to get a grip on welfare

Fast casual concept Birdbox uses an unusual fried chicken sandwich with the claw attached to make a statement about poultry welfare.

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Fast casual concept Birdbox uses an unusual fried chicken sandwich with the claw attached to make a statement about poultry welfare.

“Disconcertingly, chickens produced in the industrial poultry factories are often so battered that their legs and heads must be removed. Years of these practices has allowed all of us to become accustomed to and readily accept chemically sterilized and detached pieces of meat,” partners Chris Bleidorn and Aarti Shetty told Restaurant Business.

According to the Birdbox website, sourcing whole animals helps the fast casual ensure the quality of the meat, emphasize the tastiest aspects of each part through precise cooking and develop a more sustainable menu. The free-range, organic and pasture-raised fried chickens sourced for Claude the Claw come from Pasturebird and Mary’s Chicken.

Birdbox started as a pop-up menu in 2020 when its parent restaurant, two-Michelin-star Birdsong was forced to close its dining room during the pandemic. Sales of the $20 chicken sandwich with a claw attached were evidently big enough that the spinoff opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Summer 2022.

Whole animal poultry welfare assertions just aren’t true

I have several thoughts on this sandwich, nicknamed “Claude the Claw” by fans.

First, this isn’t the most unusual chicken sandwich WATTPoultry editors have seen. That honor belongs to the Airheads Candy Chicken Sandy, your typical chicken sandwich housed in a colorful candy confection that acts as a bun. Compared to that, Claude the Claw looks downright ordinary.

I’m also supportive of efforts to find more uses for the whole bird, although not for the reasons that Bleidorn and Shetty named. In many areas of the world although not the U.S., chicken feet are considered a delicacy. In the U.S., this part is considered a byproduct and discarded if not exported.

In China, chicken feet are euphemistically known as “phoenix talons” and in such demand that they can be more expensive to obtain than any other chicken meat. The U.S. exported more than 201,000 metric tons of chicken meat to China in 2020, according to a presentation USAPEEC president Jim Sumner made at the 2021 Chicken Marketing Summit.

This fact also disproves Bleidorn and Shetty’s assertations that the only way to guarantee poultry welfare is to buy whole birds. Buying the whole bird can help brands save money, as Wingstop proved when adding chicken thighs to their menus. However, if surplus chicken parts were so battered, as they claim, we’d be exporting a whole lot fewer chicken feet to China.

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