Americans eat more wings; prices hit record high

–AP Photo/Press of Atlantic City, Dale Gerhard

According to the National Chicken Council (NCC), Americans will eat some 1.23 billion chicken wings over Super Bowl weekend. The NCC’s 2013 Wing Report shows that more than 1.23 billion wing portions will be consumed during Super Bowl weekend in 2013.

Super Bowl wing consumption, says the NCC, is down about one percent, or 12.3 million wings, compared to last year’s numbers, but not because demand for them is declining. Quite the opposite, explains Bill Roenigk, chief economist and market analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based National Chicken Council.

“Chicken companies produced about one percent fewer birds last year, due in large part to record high corn and feed prices,’’ Roenigk said. “Corn makes up more than two-thirds of chicken feed and corn prices hit an all-time high in 2012, due to two reasons: last summer’s drought and pressure from a federal government requirement that mandates 40 percent of our corn crop be turned into fuel in the form of ethanol. Simply put, less corn equals higher feed costs, which means fewer birds produced.’’


The northeast likes bleu cheese

Almost six in 10 (57 percent) U.S. adults who eat chicken wings said they typically like to eat their wings with ranch dressing, according to a new National Chicken Council poll conducted by Harris Interactive. Only about three in 10 (35 percent) prefer bleu cheese dressing.

Adults who eat chicken wings who live in the Northeast, though, are significantly more likely to prefer bleu cheese dressing (47 percent Northeast vs. 32 percent Midwest, 30 percent South and 32 percent West), while those in other parts of the country are more likely to prefer ranch dressing (65 percent Midwest, 56 percent South and 64 percent West vs. 44 percent Northeast).

The data also show that nearly four in five U.S. adults (79 percent) eat chicken wings and that consumption does not vary significantly by region or gender. Women (77 percent) are just as likely as men (82 percent) to roll up their sleeves, break out the wet naps and eat a few wings.

“The data show that chicken wings are not bound by gender or geographic lines,’’ added the council’s Roenigk. “We also know that they are nonpartisan and politically independent. That is, there are really no extreme left wings or extreme right wings.’’

Perhaps not surprisingly, among adults who eat wings, women are more likely than men to say they like to eat their wings with celery (39 percent women vs. 28 percent men).


After ranch dressing at the top: 43 percent of wing lovers chose barbecue sauce as their typical snack or dipping sauce; 38 percent said hot sauce; 35 percent said bleu cheese; and 34 percent chose celery. Fewer than one in five wing lovers (8 percent) described themselves as purists who eat nothing with their wings.

The wing economy

When the demand for wings is stronger than the demand for other chicken parts, the price of wings will go up, as it has this past year. The wholesale price of wings was the most expensive ever during the run-up to Super Bowl XLVII as demand has risen and the supply has shrunk. Wings are also currently the highest priced part of the chicken.

Wholesale wings are currently at about $2.11 a pound in the Northeast, the highest on record at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up 26 cents or 14 percent from a year earlier.

Wing prices always go up in the fourth quarter of the year as restaurants stock up for the Super Bowl and prices usually peak in January during the run-up to the big game. But many analysts expect that demand will hold steady even after the NFL season ends.

“Demand for wings is proving more and more to be inelastic,’’ Roenigk added. “With the rising number of restaurants with menus dedicated to wings, the return of the NHL hockey season, the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament and then the start of grilling season, wing demand should remain hot.’’

But Roenigk adds that consumers shouldn’t worry about any shortage of wings on Super Bowl Sunday or any time soon.


“The good news for consumers is that restaurants plan well in advance to ensure they have plenty of wings for the big game,’’ he said. “And some restaurants are promoting boneless wings and some are offering flexible serving sizes. But if you’re planning to cook your own wings, I wouldn’t advise being in line at the supermarket two hours before kickoff.’’

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