The claw! The claw!
The first time we came across an image of chef Chris Bleidorn’s fried chicken sandwich from Birdbox in San Francisco, that is all we could see. And there are reasons for that.
This creepy-looking sandwich, complete with claw, exists because Bleidorn loves poultry. And he thinks that everyone else should give a little more thought to the chickens they’re eating.
Bleidorn’s two-year-old Michelin-starred restaurant, Birdsong, had to shut down in March due to Covid-19, but thankfully he and his team of ambitious chefs were already at work on a fried chicken takeout concept. So they just rolled out Birdbox a bit sooner than expected.
This is not your standard fast-food-wars chicken sandwich, though people in San Francisco are clamoring to try it and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #claudetheclaw.
“Using the whole animal at Birdsong and Birdbox … we don’t like to buy cookie-cutter pieces. We also don’t like to waste,” Bleidorn says.
Don’t get mad, get creative
Bleidorn’s frustration with how we consume poultry is directly related to the claw staying on his fried chicken sandwich, which comes with assembly instructions and happens to also be extremely delicious and instantly addictive.
The claw is Bleidorn and company dropping some knowledge on an unsuspecting populace who have literally no idea where their food comes from, or how it’s raised or grown.
“Our habit is we go to a store and buy a bag full of 24 chicken wings or 24 chicken drums. They could be in the frozen section or prepacked in the deli, and we see people mindlessly toss them into their carts. Not thinking that 24 wings comes from 12 chickens.”
Which leads us to the sandwich. They wanted to do something that would travel well, but also drive the philosophy of using the whole animal. And it’s memorable, to say the least.
“This sandwich with this claw sticking out, that helps us in terms of creating this identity … and people know it’s a Birdbox sandwich,” Bleidorn says.
The chickens that go into that sandwich probably eat better than any of us.
When Birdbox debuted #claudetheclaw, Bleidorn had this to say: “Head on, feet on is the most accurate indication of quality a consumer can reference. The chickens we use are organic, free-range and vegetarian fed.”
The rule of claw
Bleidorn’s exasperation with the profit-hungry poultry industry is tempered and focused. For them, “it’s about how fast we can grow these chickens, how much money can we make off each bird and how heavy can we get them,” he says.
“We buy all our chickens, it’s called Buddhist style, head on, feet on. The fact that it’s still attached means this bird was raised properly and wasn’t jammed up in a pen.”
The passion with which Bleidorn speaks of this sandwich and the claw is infectious, and his philosophy does make you think.
“It’s ironic that people are scared of the claw,” Bleidorn says, “They say ‘cut it off,’ but what they should really be scared of is a chicken sold without the claw.”
Bleidorn continues, “What the claw means to us – it’s a standard of the type of chicken we sell at Birdbox.”
The poultry industrial complex – the major manufacturers who focus on mass production, use hormones and take little care in how the birds are raised – has found itself in some pretty hot water these days.
Over the last year, the US Justice Department has been investigating chicken industry executives and employees for alleged price-fixing.
On October 7, according to the Department of Justice, “a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging six additional defendants for their roles in a previously indicted conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products.”
For now, the hope is that the people of San Francisco – and hopefully visitors, too – will order and savor the Birdbox fried chicken sandwich and relish the context as well as the flavor. As Plato said, knowledge is the food of the soul.