Fast food brands could turn to dark meat to save a buck

The new development proves that anything breasts can do, thighs can do better.

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Plated fried chicken thighs in red sauce
Photo: Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe (Getty Images)

Oh, baby, we love dark meat around here. We’ll go to bat for a fatty, juicy chicken thigh any day. Sure, white meat has its place, but skipping out on dark meat is like buying a movie ticket and leaving after the trailers. Now, as brands continue to deplete their resources fighting the Chicken Sandwich Wars, demand for white meat is through the roof—which means it’s more expensive. Business Insider reports that chains could soon turn to a delicious solution: utilizing more dark meat to offset costs.

Per Business Insider, there are a few factors squeezing the chicken market right now. First, chicken wing consumption is up 17% over last year, leading to a shortage heard ’round the world. The U.S. chicken supply also suffered after extreme winter weather in Texas affected countless flocks. Finally, remember that restaurant labor shortage? It’s also impacting chicken farms, which means fewer workers and slower production.

That all spells trouble for fast food chains, which continue to crank out white meat chicken sandwiches faster than you can say “squawk!” But, as Business Insider explains, U.S.-grown dark meat is often exported because American consumers have more of a taste for white meat. That means there’s a whole lot of dark meat left untapped on today’s market—and it makes sense that savvy brands may soon turn to the dark side to boost profit margins.

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As we reported recently, chains are already jumping on the trend with innovations like Wingstop’s new virtual brand, Thighstop. Working with dark meat means chains can buy whole chickens, using more of the product and saving a buck (and a cluck). With any luck, other fast food operations will follow suit, leaning into the underutilized dark side of the hen. Finally, an excuse to scream my infamous catch phrase: “Anything breasts can do, thighs can do better.”