COVID, Storms and Cravings Spur Chicken Wing Shortage

buffalo wings

Chicken prices, too, took a hit during the pandemic. The price per pound for a whole chicken averaged $2.80 in April 2020, the lowest price since at least 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After hovering around $3.30 for the rest of 2020, prices began to spike again earlier this year.

The daily price went from $3.99 per pound in January to $5.22 in May, an increase of 87% since April 2020.

Some restaurants are suggesting customers consider alternative options. On Monday, Wingstop launched Thighstop, a virtual brand, where customers can order a thigh meal online for pick up at over 1,400 locations or for delivery through DoorDash.

Jody Spencer, a construction worker from Mississippi, usually enjoys wings twice a week. He said that despite all the discussion around companies suggesting wing alternatives, he’s not getting on board.

“When you want some wings, you want some wings,” Spencer said. “I went through the drive-through this morning and I was told, ‘We’re out of wings, but you can have a thigh or breast.’ I didn’t get anything.”

Spencer, 51, also said that replacing thighs with wings would not be practical, using the example of ordering a 10-piece.

“Ordering 10 thighs? I don’t think that’s going to work,” Spencer said. “Maybe if they cut them in half or in quarters.”

For many people, the wing shortage negatively impacts their social lives. Ken Childs, who is retired, loves to cook and host large gatherings. Childs, 51, said that he prefers going to the supermarket to pick high-quality, non-genetically modified wings as opposed to deep fried wings at fast food joints or even sit-down restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings. He noted that he also prefers to grill his wings, which can be a healthier alternative.

Childs said that wings are his go-to food to serve his guests because it is the easiest way to please the most people.

“The shortage kind of kills everything in the process because people usually don’t eat pork,” Childs says. “Some people like legs but they’re not big on them. They say breasts dry too fast. There is really no way to substitute wings.”

When asked if wings were also the most delicious part of the chicken, he chucked a little bit and answered with an unwavering, “Most definitely.”

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