Monday, April 30, 2018

Chicken Math

I was pondering the menu at a local restaurant the other day when a strange thought entered my head; the chicken math just doesn’t add up. Think about it, when you go to your favorite wing place, how many do you order... 6, 8, a dozen? Where are all those wings coming from. The last time I looked, chickens only had two wings, so it would take six full chickens to produce a dozen wings.

No wonder the Internet was recently abuzz with Photo-shopped images purporting to show a genetically-modified chicken sporting multiple wings, an idea also explored in Margaret Atwood's novel Oryx and Crake in which a company has patented the ChickieNob, a headless bird with multiple wings and legs growing from a central stem.

I'm not entirely certain about this, but I suspect the concept of chicken wings as bar food was originally designed to even out the math the other way around. Back in the day, people ate breasts and legs and thighs but nobody wanted those scrawny wings that barely had enough meat on them to justify the effort of chewing. So, some enterprising person came up with the idea of dousing them in hot sauce and an industry was born.

My first experience with WFTSOW (wings for the sake of wings) came shortly after I started my first real job post-college. I was an assistant manager at a retail store called Best Products in the Westgate area of Toledo, Ohio. I worked long hours and had to eat many meals in my office on a tight budget. There was a now-long-defunct chain restaurant called G.D. Ritzy's just down the street and they offered a lunch special that featured 4 wings, fries and a drink for $1.99. They weren't exactly Buffalo-style, but they came with a dipping sauce that was pretty good, and I developed a taste for them.

A few years later, a Toledo-based wing chain called Frickers opened a location not far from my condo in Perrysburg and I was hooked. Their signature sauce was called the "barbecue killer," and it was not for the faint of heart, but became a part of my weekly ritual.     

But back to chicken math. How do poultry companies make the demand for the various chicken parts work out? I think the answer, whether we like it or not, might be McNuggets.

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