RIVERVIEW, Fla. – Floridians are used to seeing manatees -- just not in their lunch.
Melinda Britt Disbrow said her co-worker picked up food from a Culver’s Restaurant on Big Bend Road in Riverview Thursday afternoon and they were all enjoying a meal together when she noticed something that immediately caught her attention.
“I got the chicken tender meal for lunch and got down to the last tender and there it was. It was very obvious as soon as I looked at it that it looked like a manatee,” Drisbow said.
The sea cow-shaped snack became the hot topic of conversion among Drisbow and her colleagues at the dental office.
“We just had the best day. It just, like, made our day,” she said.
The tender talk progressed from there and eventually, someone had the idea to post it for sale on Facebook Marketplace.
That same afternoon, Drisbow listed the remnants of her meal for sale with a $5,000 price tag and a caption letting potential buyers know they “must see to appreciate.”
Since then, Drisbow said she’s received hundreds of messages -- some with jokes, some with general comments and some a little bit “off-color.”
“For the most part it’s been very positive," Drisbow said. “People said, ‘You made my day,’ ‘This is hilarious.’ I’ve had people (ask) ‘What size clothes does it wear?’ ‘Can you send a video?’”
The Florida transplant, who moved to the Sunshine State in 2001, said she’s even had a few not-so-serious offers.
“I’ve had people barter with me, you know, a Chick-fil-A meal for that or a cheeseburger,” Drisbow said.
For now, the pricey poultry is stashed in Drisbow’s freezer to keep it fresh. While the posting was meant to make people smile, she said the ultimate goal is to raise awareness about safe boating practices and manatee conservation.
She said she often goes out on the water and loves watching the sea cows swim by. In fact, she said there’s a manatee viewing area right down the road from the Culver’s where the tender was purchased.
“It’s really sad... it’s very rare to see one that doesn’t have scars from propellers on it. So, if this can put it out there, make people aware, it’s well worth it -- and it’s an awesome chicken tender,” Drisbow said.
When and if the tender does sell, Drisbow said she’d donate the money to a charity that helps sea cows. In the meantime, she’s glad to provide some levity in an online world that can often be dark.
“Again, the whole manatee approach is awesome but today in general, there’s so many negative things out there. If we can take a moment to laugh about a manatee-shaped chicken tender then hey, let’s do it,” Drisbow said.
To help sea cow conservation efforts without investing in the $5,000 tender, you can go to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website for information on how to purchase a manatee decal or license plate. You can also click here for tips on how to help protect manatees.