Chik-fil-A: Dress like a cow, eat for free

Chik-fil-A 'Cow Appreciation Day' gives customers a free meal if they come to the restaurant in a cow costume. Customers dressed in a partial cow costume get a free Chik-fil-A entrée.

Kids dress up as cows to get a free meal from Chik-fil-A on "Cow Appreciation Day."

Friday's the day of the man-eating chicken. Er, the chicken-eating cow? No, the chicken-eating man-cow!

On July 8, the restaurant chain Chik-fil-A is rewarding customers who come dressed “from head to hoof” as cows with a free meal. (Partial costumes get just a free entrée.)

The seventh annual “Cow Appreciation Day” is an extension of Chik-fil-A’s longtime marketing shtick. Since the chain doesn't serve beef, it's jokingly had cows plead with customers to eat chicken instead. In the ads, desperate cows hold up messy, misspelled signs, with messages such as, "Eat mor chikin ." On Friday, the cow’s sign says, “Dress like me. Git free chikin.” Last year, more than 450,000 people dressed up for free food.

The chicken chain doesn't take the one-day costume bargain lightly. There’s a website devoted to the day, with a photo gallery of customers sporting spots, a check-in map that shows which franchises have gotten cattle traffic so far, and an intense, high-end video (see below) of a man sewing a cow costume – fabric rips and sweat drips from the man’s brow as he bites off thread and stitches together his costume. It feels like a video of Eminem inexplicably getting ready to play an NFL game.

But not everybody has the time or yards of furry fabric requisite for making a full-out cow suit. So, Chik-fil-A has some ideas for just about everyone else. For the creative, frugal type, the website gives suggestions of how to fashion an outfit from items around the house, such as construction paper, markers, and old white clothing. For those willing to drop a few bucks, they suggest buying a full-body costume. And for those who are more enthusiastic about eating free chicken than making or buying cow garb, there’s a “costume” that you can download, print out, cut out, and tape on your body – complete with hooves, a tail, spots, and a mouth. (Tip: If you go this route, be sure to use a straw for your soda to avoid a soggy snout.)

Out of all the Cow Day resources on the website, there’s one that’s more curious than the rest: the iPhone app. Meant to help customers “get inspired for Cow Appreciation Day,” the app lets you choose what kind of cow you want to be – hippie cow, firefighter cow, shopper cow, cop cow – and superimpose your face on the cow’s body. It’s unclear whether presenting the image to the cashier counts for a free entrée.

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