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Wings and beer are getting pricier

The wholesale cost of chicken wings is now higher than boneless chicken breast.

By Karen Datko Oct 28, 2009 4:23PM

Do you know why food establishments are pushing boneless chicken wings?


Answer: Boneless wings are really chicken breast meat, which now -- in a surprising turn of events -- costs less than real wings with bones.

No, this is not a food quiz blog (although we did once write about whether baby carrots are really tiny little carrots. They're not.) But the fact is that two staples of Sunday football -- chicken wings and beer -- aren't the cheap treats they used to be.


The price of wings -- the real ones -- has gone up, and the cost of beer is not coming down, despite a glut of hops on the market, according to news reports.


First, about those wings. The New York Times reports:

The once-lowly wing is selling at a premium over what has long been the gold standard of poultry parts, the skinless boneless chicken breast. Like the tail that wags the dog, the wings are now flapping the chicken.

The newspaper says the average wholesale price of wings was $1.48 a pound in the Northeast last month, while boneless, skinless chicken breast was a relative bargain at $1.21 (a price change that many supermarkets haven't passed on to you).


Blame the recession, the NYT adds. Struggling restaurants ordered a lot less chicken breast when people stopped eating out, but wings never lost their appeal. (There's even an iPhone app for wing lovers.)


What's the fallout? Some tavern owners interviewed by the Times are dropping wing specials or going with the cheaper boneless kind.


About the beer: The beer giants already announced that prices will continue to go up this year. Now, a story in The Oregonian in Portland -- a must-read article if you're a fan of craft brewing -- explains why an overabundance of hops, two years after a shortage caused the hops price to shoot up, won't result in lower beer prices.

Pubs and breweries face all sorts of increased costs, from stainless steel brewing vessels to employee health care, freight and fuel costs, and hops are perhaps the smallest part. Plus, most brewers contracted for their hops for years ahead during the shortage, and those contract prices will be higher than 2009 spot-market prices.

Related reading:

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