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Friday, January 25, 2013
Is Super Bowl chicken wing shortage real?

By Darren Rovell

Chicken Wings
With everyone in the land consuming chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday, how can there be enough?

There are stories that the media and the public naturally gravitate to, and the good old chicken wing shortage story around Super Bowl time is a can't miss.

Although I'm not sure this information inspires true panic like the rumored bacon shortage, there are some fans who really need us to get to the bottom of it.

So why is this even an issue at all? Well, first let's start with the fact that a chicken only has two wings. Then understand that chickens are fed on corn, and the corn crop is already thinning because more of it is being devoted to making ethanol. And then finally, the demand for chicken wings themselves has skyrocketed. The National Chicken Council says that 1.23 billion wings will be consumed on Super Bowl Sunday alone.

As if the growing number of Buffalo Wild Wings (900 stores) and Wingstop (550 stores) wasn't enough, it seems like every restaurant is throwing wings on its menu. Pizza places have been quick to jump on the trend, no one more bullish than Pizza Hut, which has its Wing Street brand in 61 percent of its 6,300 locations.

None of the major chain restaurants that we spoke to, namely the ones referenced above, said they wouldn't have enough for the big game, but that's not the case if you are going to be tossing wings yourself for your Super Bowl party.

A source who works for one major national retailer tells us getting fresh or frozen chicken wings over the past couple weeks has been difficult, and that when wings do come in, there has been a noticeable jump in price in recent weeks.

That price has been passed on to the consumers in both the grocery store and in the restaurants. Food and beverage industry consultancy firm Technomic says the cost of wings in restaurants rose by about 13 percent last year.

In lieu of generically engineering a 10-wing chicken, some relief has come on the form of the rise in popularity of boneless wings. Boneless wings are simply cut out of chicken breasts, and they are less expensive per pound.

Meanwhile, don't expect the chicken wings demand to wane. Wingstop alone says it will serve more than 6 million wings next Sunday. That would be a record for the 13th straight year.