The Great Chicken Wing Debacle: Prices on the Rise in Supermarkets

Nothing, and we mean nothing, spells the start of football season like an ice-cold beer and a pile of red-hot chicken wings. Handheld, crispy, and juicy, the perfect chicken wings were made for game days, whether you’re in front of the television with loved ones or at the stadium tailgating. But there’s some bad news for chicken wing lovers — prices of the football season favorite have ballooned to an all-time high, with no sign of stopping.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, months of steadily increasing demand, thanks to record-breaking sports-bar events like the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight and the just-opened NFL season, along with aggressive promotions at wing-centric restaurants, have left the supply side of the chicken-wing equation coming up dry.

Though traffic has been steadily dropping for fast-casual restaurants, chicken wings remain a diner favorite, and the price of the average order of chicken wings at a full-service restaurant have fallen nearly 20 percent in the 12 months ending June 2017 from $8.85 to $7.23. Over the year, though, wholesale prices have climbed a similar 20 percent, up to a record $2.09 per pound in August.

Restaurants are feeling the burn, and not just from sticky-hot buffalo sauce; Buffalo Wild Wings said its cost rose to historic highs while its earnings plummeted 60 percent, with menu prices staying much the same. At Wingstop, wholesale wing prices rose 11 percent, with further increases expected.

At the same time, commercial chicken wings stock fell to more than 33 percent below 2016, according to the USDA.

This all translates to big, big numbers, given that Americans ate more than 1 billion restaurant orders of chicken wings in the 12 months from June 2016 to June 2017, and at-home wing eating saw similar gains, with sales growing 12 percent in volume and prices up 15 percent.

Traditionally, demand for wings picks up hard in fall with the start of football season and lets up in spring, after March Madness, but this year, prices never fell and wholesalers weren’t as able to restock their freezers for the next year’s kickoff.

To handle the heat, some restaurants are changing their game. Buffalo Wild Wings, for instance, said it’s doing away with its half-priced chicken wing Tuesdays, a year-round promo, in favor of a BOGO “boneless” wing deal, which actually doesn’t use chicken wings at all, in favor of the much-cheaper and, yes, boneless, chicken breast.

Chicken Wing Recipes

Before you throw in the towel, try one of our game day-approved chicken wing recipes.

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