No meat to Super Bowl chicken wing 'crisis'
There's less of the favored game snack around than there was last year, but football fans will still get their fill.
As America continues to limbo under its ever-lowering bar for outrage, the price of wings per pound has risen 22 cents in the last year to $2.11, according to the Department of Agriculture and the National Chicken Council.
The industry group estimates that price hike will cut Super Bowl wing consumption by 1% to 1.23 billion wing portions. That's 12.3 million fewer wings than last year, thanks largely to this summer's drought that cut corn supplies, increased the price of feed and cut chicken production.
Again, is this really what we're slapping the "crisis" tag on these days? Absolutely. After all, wings have become the most expensive chicken part sold, and wing consumption that used to peak around Super Bowl Sunday and drop off the rest of the year has evened out year-round.
"Demand for wings is proving more and more to be inelastic," says Bill Roenigk, chief economist and market analyst for the National Chicken Council. "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."
Add to that cry a chorus of Chicken Littles warning hungry Americans about the sky's impending collapse. Leading the charge against the chicken cliff is the Department of Agriculture, which told CNN that McDonald's (MCD) plan to add wings to its menu in certain markets is depleting the nation's wing reserves. The 75 million pounds of chicken wings in frozen storage at the end of December is a 68% increase from a year earlier as McDonald's stocks up on "Mighty Wings" to test at 500 locations in Chicago.
This, of course, created a panic of “Chicken Run” proportions that reached its zenith when two storage workers in Georgia made off with $65,000 worth of frozen wings earlier this month, according to the Huffington Post. While businesses like Buffalo Wild Wings (BWLD) insist they aren't worried about the relatively paltry poultry supply, market research firm NPD Group warns that wing demand jumps 156% on Super Bowl Sunday compared to any other Sunday on the winter calendar.
The fact that it's done so during myriad other "shortages" makes economists a bit skeptical about the encroaching "crisis." As U.S. News and World Report points out, the head chicken hawks at USA Today declared wing crises in both 2009 and 2010. Somehow, the republic held. Just last year, a group in the United Kingdom predicted a bacon shortage that threatened ill-advised fast-food concoctions worldwide. Culinary armageddon was dodged yet again.
As economists noted, the latest wing news doesn't mean they're going to run out any time soon. It just means football fans are going to pay more for them, as they do every January thanks to increased demand. That's not a crisis: At worst, it's a calendar update.
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