Where did all the tiny chickens go?

Illustration for article titled Where did all the tiny chickens go?
Photo: Janis Apels (iStock)

The magic behind the Popeyes chicken sandwich is itty bitty, teeny tiny chickens. Little ladies whose plump, juicy quarter-pound breasts fit oh-so-perfectly inside a buttery brioche bun with crunchy pickles and a slick of spicy Cajun sauce. And, as the L.A. Times reports, the reason the Popeyes chicken sandwich disappeared from our greasy little hands for two whole months is that we ate so many of those chickens that America ran out. And now... the war begins to see which fast food chain will murder the most teeny-tiny chickens.

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The ideal chicken sandwich bird weighs less than 4.25 pounds—a size that is normally sent to grocery stores, not chain restaurants. To meet Americans’ insatiable appetite for chicken (each of us eats an average of 93.5 pounds a year), birds have been getting bigger over the years thanks to steroids and selective breeding. In 1925, the average broiler-sized bird weighed about 2.5 pounds. Today, chickens average more than six pounds, with “jumbo” chickens tipping the scales at more than nine, and all that junk in the floofy feathered trunk is no bueno when you’re trying to squeeze your breasts between two buns.

After the explosive success that Popeyes experienced in 2019, every fast food concept is working overtime to bring a new, improved, sell-your-firstborn-worthy fried chicken sandwich to market, and all of them want those itty-bitty chickens. McDonald’s is currently test-marketing its MSG-enhanced entry, which is only being sold in Houston; Seattle; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Augusta, Georgia. Wendy’s announced it’s entering the fray as well, investing $30 million into their chicken supply chain. The price of itty-bitty breasts from teeny-tiny chickens is now triple the price of jumbo birds.

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So what’s the itty-bitty teeny-tiny chicken situation looking like now? The Times reached out to the country’s biggest chicken producers—Perdue Farms, Koch Foods, and Tyson Foods—and all declined to comment. It seems that the Great Little Chicken War will be played out in the shadows.

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, author of three books, and The People's Hot Pocket Princess. Questions about recipes/need cooking advice? Tweet @Robicellis.

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DISCUSSION

ahavatamid
ahavatamid

Can I just thank you for what might be the funniest sentence I’ve read in a long, long time?

“Today, chickens average more than six pounds, with “jumbo” chickens tipping the scales at more than nine, and all that junk in the floofy feathered trunk is no bueno when you’re trying to squeeze your breasts between two buns.”