As a current junior, Late Night has always been a staple of my BC experience. Through countless exams, papers, and stressful nights, the chicken tenders and mozzarella sticks of Late Night have always provided me with the unhealthy, fattening sustenance needed to continue with my studies. When Lower Dining removed chicken tenders from its menu last year in an attempt to make Late Night healthier, I felt betrayed. It was as if BC Dining stabbed me in the back with one of its rarely-used metal forks. Fortunately, after the outcry from tender-deprived students, BC Dining brought back the chicken tenders, and thus they lived on in our hearts and stomachs every weekend.
The first weekend of this year, I walked over to Lower to grab some of the chicken tenders I had been craving all summer long. Imagine my surprise and disgust when I saw them and immediately realized they were different. Taking one bite was enough to confirm my suspicions—these were not the tenders I loved, but a cheap and low-quality imposter. What made the old chicken tenders so good, and why do the new ones remind me of something I would get at a gas station convenience store?
First, let’s examine the characteristics of the old chicken tenders. As you can see from the picture above (taken at a HOOT my freshman year), the previous tenders were crispier and crunchier, all as a result of the bread coating. There was also more of it, which meant the tenders were overall more flavorful. In terms of the actual chicken, it was whole and unprocessed, meaning that as you bit into the chicken, you could see the fibers break apart. Besides this observation, how else do I know the chicken was whole? My freshman year I was served several raw chicken tenders, and examining the picture I still have of the gruesome incident confirms my memory: that the chicken was a whole, non-ground piece of chicken.
Looking at the new chicken tenders, a few observations immediately jump out. They are lighter in color, much smoother, and have a more uniform shape and thickness (they are also flatter). The breading is softer and thinner, and feels more greasy. The insides of the tenders do not appear to be whole chicken, but rather ground-up and processed chicken similar to what you might find in McDonald’s nuggets. Next time you try one of these tenders, look at the appearance, and tell me that it doesn’t look like the inside of a chicken nugget! The uniformity of the tenders also lends itself to this conclusion: They are all basically the same shape, and abnormally thin. Combine the lack of a thick, crunchy coating with the homogeneous insides, and you get a tender that is soft and flavorless.
Why would BC commit such an atrocity? There seem to be two potential reasons for the switch. The first could be that BC Dining’s current supplier no longer produced or sold the original chicken tenders, and BC was forced to switch to whatever tenders were available. The second reason might be that BC was trying to save money, so it chose to purchase a lower cost tender (and lower cost = lower quality). So, which one is it? To answer this question, I had to find BC Dining’s food supplier and see if they offered multiple varieties of tenders. Finding their supplier was the easier of the two tasks, given how often I have noticed Sysco trucks unloading outside of BC’s various dining facilities. In addition, I have seen boxes of Sysco Imperial brand french fries inside of Lower. Thus, it is safe to say that Sysco is BC Dining’s main food supplier.
Actually determining whether Sysco offers multiple varieties of tenders (and what those varieties are) proved to be the most difficult part. In order to view Sysco’s most recent catalog, you have to be an approved business customer, and as such I was unable to find Sysco’s current tender offerings. However, I did find one from 2018, which shows that Sysco offers five different types of chicken tenders. Looking at the pictures and descriptions, it appears that the old tenders were “Easy Tenders,” which are described as having a crispier, crunchier, and heavier breading. They are also classified as being “par fried,” which means that they are shipped already breaded, but raw (this was evidenced by my experience eating a raw chicken tender). While the new type of tender isn’t as obvious, it appears that it might be “TDF Tenders,” as both are similar in appearance. The description of these tenders is “neutral flavor, great value for kids menus.”
What does “neutral flavor” translate to? Being flavorless! And what does “great value for kids menus” mean? Usually, kids menus are priced at a point that is much lower than the rest of the menu. Thus, in order to make money off of a kids menu item, the cost of the food you are serving must be extremely low, or at least lower than the menu price. Thus, being “great value for kids menus” means one thing—the chicken tenders are cheap!
While I am obviously not BC Dining and can’t be sure that cost is the reason for the switch, I think it is really the only logical conclusion. It's either that or they think that students have the flavor preferences of children! Given that the chicken tenders cost at least $8, BC Dining is certainly making a pretty penny as a result of the switch to cheaper chicken. Now, let me ask BC Dining this: What is more important, making more money, or serving high-quality, delicious food? Only one of those items is in their mission statement, and it certainly isn’t the money. On behalf of all the students I know who despise the current chicken tenders, all I ask is that they do the right thing: Bring back the old chicken tenders.