Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Buffalo Wild Wings
Can a “boneless chicken wing” really be called a wing?
That’s the question posed by a new class action lawsuit filed last week in federal court by a Chicago man who bought a round of boneless wings at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Mount Prospect, Illinois, in January.
Based on the name and description of the wings, the complaint says, Aimen Halim “reasonably believed that the products were actually wings that had been deboned” — in other words, that they consisted entirely of chicken wing meat.
But the “boneless wings” served at Buffalo Wild Wings are not. Instead, they are made from white meat from chicken breasts.
If Halim had known, “he wouldn’t have bought them, or he would have paid significantly less for them,” he claims in his lawsuit. In addition, he claimed that the chain “deliberately, falsely and knowingly” misrepresented its boneless wings as real chicken wings.
The only response from Buffalo Wild Wings is in the form of a tweet.
Our boneless wings are all white meat chicken.
Our burgers do not contain ham.
Our buffalo wings are 0% buffalo.
— Buffalo Wild Wings (@BWWings) March 13, 2023
“It’s true. Our boneless chicken wings are all white meat chicken. Our burgers contain no ham. Our buffalo wings are 0% buffalo,” the chain wrote Monday.
According to a report last month from the Associated Press, breast meat is cheaper than bone-in chicken wings, with a difference of more than $3 per pound.
Wings were once even cheaper than breast meat. The lawsuit dates that change into price differential back to the Great Recession, citing a 2009 New York Times story about the steady popularity of chicken wings even as budget-conscious consumers had cut back on eating out.
Around that time, chicken producers were trending toward larger, hormone-filled birds, noted a 2018 story in the Counter. But no matter how much white meat a larger chicken could produce, it still only had two wings.
Halim’s lawsuit calls for a court order to immediately stop Buffalo Wild Wings from making “misleading statements” at the chain’s 1,200 locations across the country.
Some of the bar chain’s competitors, including Domino’s and Papa Johns, refer to their chicken breast nuggets as “chicken poppers” or “boneless chicken,” the lawsuit notes. “A restaurant called Buffalo Wild ‘Wings’ should be just as careful, if not more so, in naming its products,” he said.
The lawsuit also seeks unspecified compensation for monetary losses suffered by Halim and all other clients of Buffalo Wild Wings locations in Illinois.
Class action lawsuits against food and beverage companies have become more common in recent years. Many accuse packaged food products, such as those available in supermarkets, of having deceptive or misleading labels, packaging or advertisements.
This number has increased from 18 in 2008 to more than 300 in 2021, according to Perkins Coie, a law firm that follows food and beverage litigation and represents businesses. The number slowed last year, the company found.