A new lawsuit has a bone to pick with Buffalo Wild Wings: A Chicago man is suing the popular chain for false advertising, claiming its “boneless wings” aren’t really wings at all.
The nomenclature of “boneless wings” has long irked poultry purists. In 2020, Ander Christensen of Lincoln, Neb., stirred the nation with an impassioned speech to his city council on the subject, pleading “that we as a city remove the name ‘boneless wings’ from our menus and from our hearts.”
An Associated Press story last month called the boneless wing a “culinary lie” and one example of a category of “gentle impostors” that includes imitation crab meat and baby carrots (which are actually adult carrots, whittled down to an adorable size). Cookbook author and TV personality Christopher Kimball told the news service that most consumers have “no idea where any of this stuff comes from.”
“You’re associating it with the Super Bowl and parties and fun, so you transform the perception of the product,” Kimball said. “You can blame the food companies, but we’re buying it.”
Like many who lament the rise of the “boneless wing,” Halim’s lawsuit traces its origin to rising costs for chicken wings. In the recession of 2008, it says, poultry processors experienced a downturn in demand for breast meat, while demand for wings — deemed an affordable luxury — soared.
Around the same time, the buyers for wings grew hungrier, the lawsuit says, with Buffalo Wild Wings expanding its reach, along with chains such as Atomic Wings, Wingstop and Wing Zone — all of which further pushed up the price of wings and made it cheaper for restaurants to substitute breast meat.
In response to The Washington Post’s email seeking comment, Buffalo Wild Wings sent a link to a tweet in which the company sounded a cheekily defiant note. “It’s true,” the tweet reads. “Our boneless wings are all white meat chicken. Our hamburgers contain no ham. Our buffalo wings are 0% buffalo.”
It’s true.— Buffalo Wild Wings (@BWWings) March 13, 2023
Our boneless wings are all white meat chicken.
Our hamburgers contain no ham.
Our buffalo wings are 0% buffalo.
The lawsuit seeks compensation on Halim’s behalf and for an unspecified number of other customers who claim to have been similarly duped into buying what they considered a “premium” product. “Plaintiff and other consumers would have paid significantly less for the Products, or would not have purchased them at all, had they known … the truth about the Products,” the lawsuit says.
Buffalo Wild Wings knew better, the lawsuit alleges: People have been complaining about the term “boneless wings” for years, it notes. And by contrast, the filing notes, some of Buffalo Wild Wings’ competitors use different names to describe similar products. Domino’s serves “Boneless Chicken” and Papa John’s offers “Chicken Poppers,” it says.
The lawsuit is seeking to represent a class of consumers around the country who also purchased the chain’s “boneless wings” at one of the chain’s more than 1,000 locations and estimates that the number of consumers totals “in the thousands.” It claims that the product violates Illinois and nationwide laws banning fraud and unjust enrichment and seeks unspecified compensation and punitive damages — and an injunction against Buffalo Wild Wings preventing it from continuing to use the term.