A Chicago man is suing Buffalo Wild Wings for false advertising and “deceptive” business practices, alleging that he was duped into buying “boneless wings” that aren’t just boneless, but wingless as well.
Aimen Halim says he went to a Buffalo Wild Wings location in Mount Prospect, Illinois in January and purchased the dish, believing them to be deboned chicken wings.
“Unbeknown to Plaintiff and other consumers, the Products are not wings at all, but instead, slices of chicken breast meat deep-fried like wings,” says the lawsuit, reported by the Washington Post. “Indeed, the Products are more akin, in composition, to a chicken nugget rather than a chicken wing.”
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Halim sued Buffalo Wild Wings and parent company Inspire Brands on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The lawsuit is also filed on behalf of potentially “thousands” of other affected patrons.
“Had Plaintiff and other consumers known that the Products are not actually chicken wings, they would have paid less for them, or would not have purchased them at all,” the suit argues. “Therefore, Plaintiff and consumers have suffered injury in fact, as a result of Defendants’ deceptive practices.”
When Buffalo Wild Wings was asked to comment on the lawsuit, the popular chain sent a link to a recent tweet.
“It’s true,” the post reads. “Our boneless wings are all white meat chicken. Our hamburgers contain no ham. Our buffalo wings are 0% buffalo.”
But Halim’s lawsuit argues that the term “boneless wings” has been in contention for years, and other competitors have made an effort to move away from the name. For instance, Domino’s calls a similar product “boneless chicken” and Papa John’s uses the name “chicken poppers.”
“It should be noted that Domino’s Pizza and Papa Johns also sell actual chicken wings, and that, a restaurant named Buffalo Wild ‘Wings’ should be just as careful if not more in how it names its products,” the suit reads.
“This clear-cut case of false advertising should not be permitted, as consumers should be able to rely on the plain meaning of a product’s name and receive what they are promised.”
Halim is seeking unspecified “damages, injunctive relief, restitution, declaratory relief, and all other remedies the Court deems appropriate.”
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Just last month, the Associated Press ran a story calling boneless wings a “culinary lie,” similar to imitation crab meat, which is actually fish, and to baby carrots, which are full-sized carrots cut down to their cute rounded shape.
The news organization asked Americans “at a smattering of wing joints” if they were aware that boneless wings are made of white meat chicken breast and “a healthy amount” of those polled did not know.
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“You’re associating it with the Super Bowl and parties and fun, so you transform the perception of the product,” says Christopher Kimball, founder of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, a company whose magazine and instructional TV show help people cook.
“Most people have no idea where any of this stuff comes from,” Kimball says. “You can blame the food companies, but we’re buying it.”
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In September 2020, a Nebraska man decided to stand up to boneless wings when he broached the topic at his local city council meeting in Lincoln.
“I propose that we as a city remove the name ‘boneless wings’ from our menus and from our hearts,” said Ander Christensen in the impassioned speech. “We’ve been living a lie for far too long.”
Part of the reason for the rise of the boneless wing is money. In recent years, with prices of actual chicken wings rising, the alternative became more cost-effective.
The average price for prepared boneless wings is US$4.99 ($6.83) a pound compared with US$8.38 ($11.47) a pound for bone-in wings, according to Tom Super, senior vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council, citing the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He calls it “a way to move more boneless/skinless breast meat that continues currently to be in ample supply.”
“While many wing consumers argue that the wing needs a bone to impart a special taste, the ongoing success of the boneless wings has proven there are plenty of boneless wing diners,” Super said in an email.
— With files from The Associated Press
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