The Hooters Effect on Breasts

Fat. Sugar. Salt.  If you list the unhealthy foods that we eat too much of and too often, it’s very likely they will have plenty of one of those three items.  Many of the most addictive foods will combine all three, creating layers of flavor that many of us seem unable to resist.

This is no secret to anyone who is in the business of selling foods.  Millions of dollars are spent searching for new flavor combinations that will hit all three notes and create the next ranch-flavored tortilla chip.   Sugar, fat and salt make a food compelling.  They trigger the brain’s reward system and release dopamine, a chemical that motivates our behaviour and makes us want to eat more.

Sometimes someone hits on the right flavor combination almost by accident.  That’s how the Buffalo Chicken Wing came into existence back in the 1960s.  Back then wings were almost a throw-away item used primarily for flavoring soups.  But once they were battered and fried and dipped in sweet and salty sauces, they became something else entirely.

Today you will find them on menus across the country.  And if there’s one restaurant chain that is synonymous with wings, it’s Hooters.  With over 450 locations around the world, they were expected to serve over two million wings on Super Bowl Sunday alone.

All of these restaurant sales have had a dramatic effect on the demand for chicken wings.  Wholesale prices have more than doubled over the past decade, and the once lowly wings now sell for a premium price.  A check of current prices at Costco showed them selling for more than double the price of whole birds or drumsticks.

In the meantime prices for the lower fat, milder tasting chicken breasts have slumped.  So food sellers can now offer products made from breast meat at more attractive prices.  But they face a challenge.  Price is only one part of the equation.  They needed a product with irresistable flavors to really capture consumers’ interest.

Using the tried and true method of layering fat, sugar and salt, they took the reasonably healthy breast meat and gave it the full Buffalo treatment.   We now have boneless wings, which are essentially pieces of breast meat that have been battered and fried, and that are served with the same sugar and salt-laden sauces as their bony counterparts. 

With no bones to slow you down,  you essentially have a Chicken McNugget for adults.  But it’s made with skinless chicken breast, how bad can it be, right?

Well here’s the nutritional data from an appetizer portion (5) of Chili’s  Triple Dipper Boneless Buffalo Wings with Bleu Cheese Dressing:  710 calories, 55 grams of fat (85% of your RDA), and 2220 mg. of sodium (93% of your RDA).  Yeah, that’s how bad it can be!

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