Skinny Butcher Nails Two Trends In One With ‘Stranger Things’ And Vegan Chicken Nuggets

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Ahead of the Stranger Things season four premiere, Detroit’s Skinny Butcher has announced it has rolled out show-themed plant-based chicken nuggets in nationwide Walmart stores. The Crazy Crispy Chick’n Nuggets are the latest in a long line of Stranger Things collaborations. This one is on-brand for one of the actors, Sadie Sink, who is vegan herself.

The nuggets are not novelty shapes but come in a branded box with references to Stranger Things emblazoned on the front. Packets are in the frozen food aisle and contain 12 nuggets each.

Skinny in name and impact

Skinny Butcher came about as a joint venture between Dave Zilko, former vicechairman of Cargen Fresh Gourmet, and the Golden West Food Group. Together, they set out to create a plant-based meat brand that would leave a ‘skinny’ footprint on the planet, while being endearing.

“No other plant-based program possesses the brand personality of Skinny Butcher; he endears himself to the consumer at the point of sale and that relationship continues through consumption,” Dave Zilko, CEO of Skinny Butcher said in a statement. “Skinny Butcher does not take himself or our Crazy Crispy line of Chick’n Nuggets, Tenders, Patties, Sliders or Breasts too seriously. This kind of food should be fun, while also being sustainable.” 

Conventional poultry production is a significant contributor to climate change. 360 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to come from poultry manufacturing every year. This figure is expected to keep rising as consumers look to switch to meats they consider less harmful than beef. 

The U.S.’s favourite meat, chicken is consumed in large quantities. Around 58 pounds per person per year—a demand that perpetuates the cramped and unsanitary farm conditions. But demand for plant-based chicken is increasing in popularity and diversity of offerings thanks to its environmental considerations and ethical benefits.

Skinny Butcher chicken patties

Bringing the community together

Skinny Butcher is part of a unique four-way working partnership. The consumer-facing brand of the vegan chicken coalition, Skinny Butcher is backed by Golden West Food Group as its manufacturer, Valor Siren Ventures as its key financier and Wow Bao acts as a virtual kitchen developer. 

The aim of the four is to make plant-based chicken products as accessible as possible. Replacing conventional animal meat in the food system will be an added bonus. Skinny Butcher aims to do this with its pea protein-fuelled alternatives which are soy and palm oil-free. 

“We immediately knew we had a product that people would think is out of this world,” Zilko said about the Stranger Things nugget launch. “Not only can you not tell the difference between Skinny Butcher chick’n and animal-based products, but we’re the only ‘Crazy Crispy’ nugget on the market, in either format. No secret experiments were conducted here – just some ingenuity from the team at Golden West Food Group!”

Skinny Butcher chicken sandwich

Getting the colonel in a flap

Skinny Butcher is in good company, as global startups look to cut through dependence on chicken in the food system. Last month, San Francisco-based Nowadays scooped $7 million in a seed funding round to scale its plant-based chicken analogues. The raise was oversubscribed and brought the company’s total funding to $10 million. Using yellow pea protein, Nowadays looks to make vegan chicken nuggets with a clean label twist, while investigating future whole cut lines.

In the U.K. Singapore brand, TiNDLE made a splash by launching into 50 foodservice locations, a few weeks ago. The move followed a record-busting Series A round that saw TiNDLE snare $100 million for its vegan chicken range.

All photos by Skinny Butcher.


  • Amy Buxton

    A long-term committed ethical vegan and formerly Green Queen's resident plant-based reporter, Amy juggles raising a family and maintaining her editorial career, while also campaigning for increased mental health awareness in the professional world. Known for her love of searing honesty, in addition to recipe developing, animal welfare and (often lacklustre) attempts at handicrafts, she’s hands-on and guided by her veganism in all aspects of life. She’s also extremely proud to be raising a next-generation vegan baby.

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