The Real Reason You're Seeing More Boneless Wings This Super Bowl

If you're planning to go to a bar — or feed your guests takeout — for the Super Bowl this year, you might notice your go-to chain is pushing a slightly different product when you order wings. Once the wallflower of the poultry world, chicken wings have become the belles of the finger food ball; and with the National Chicken Council expecting wing consumption to hit 1.42 billion pieces during the game this year, and chicken wing prices higher than ever, restaurants are turning to creative alternatives like "boneless chicken wings" for their promotional deals.

Made with cuts of chicken breast which are then cooked in the style of chicken wings, boneless wings have become an easy way for restaurants to sell wings without actually having to sell them. (As Chicken council spokesman Tom Super told Bloomberg, chickens "unfortunately only have two wings," so restaurants are able to get a lot more boneless wings out of a single chicken than they are actual wings.) FAT Brands CEO Andy Wiederhorn told Insider boneless wings allow restaurants to have "options for lower prices" — which explains why Applebee's can offer 20 boneless wings for free with every purchase over $40, or how Wingstop can offer 70% off boneless wings and thigh bites while charging 10% more for an order of real deal chicken wings (via Resturant Business Online).

The boneless chicken wing came during the Great Recession

It wasn't always this way. Back in 2009, Andrew F. Smith, then editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, told The New York Times, "Everybody was into breasts because it's lower fat. But to me the breast is tasteless. I like fat, and most people do. The wings have fat."

The battle between chicken breasts and chicken wings was flipped on its head during the Great Recession, which took place between 2007 and 2009, and the wings began to outsell (and cost more than) boneless breast. Bar owners were then forced to look at other, less costly alternatives to the chicken wing, and the boneless "wing" was born.

But to wing aficionados like comedian Jimmy O. Yang, there is nothing like the real deal. In a piece titled "Boneless Wings Are a Lie!!!!" the actor wrote: " The ultimate for me is chicken wings. There's nothing better than the tender meat wedged between the bones of a wing." (via Bon Appétit)

Yang continues: "Based on its name 'boneless wings,' I assumed someone had taken the time to debone the wings, which sounded like the fancy labor of a chef like Jacques Pépin. But I quickly realized boneless wings are no wings at all — they are little white meat lies."

So while you may be able to score a deal on boneless wings this Super Bowl, the swap is sure to ruffle a few purist's feathers.