September 20, 2021

The Price of Wings is Tackling Consumers’ Wallets

By Justin Blackwell, Supervisor, Assurance Services & Michael Buchheit, Partner, Assurance Services

The Price of Wings is Tackling Consumers’ Wallets Food & Beverage

The chill is in the air as football fans have been celebrating the kickoff of the NFL and college football seasons. But whether we enjoy the games from the comfort of our couches or at tailgates, there may be one snack staple missing in action: the buffalo wing.

According to an April 2021 report from the restaurant business online bureau, we’re experiencing a chicken wing shortage that started as early as February 2021 — and as a result, the wing supply is at its lowest point since 2011. Flag on the play!

According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report from August 2021, the price of wings did an end-around, going from $1.50 to $1.70 per pound in 2020 to roughly $3.00 to $4.00 per pound in 2021. The increase is due to employers playing without enough players on the field: A labor shortage in the United States is causing a decrease in the number of employees working at chicken processing plants. In addition to the labor shortage, the actual supply of chicken wings is down in the current year as well. Texas is the nation’s leading supplier of chicken wings, and during 2020 the state suffered severe winter storms. That caused statewide power outages, which closed production plants.

In response to the price fluctuation affecting chicken wings, some restaurants are calling an audible and transitioning to a method commonly used to sell fresh fish or lobster — they now sell chicken wings at a market price. Bigger chain companies can absorb much of the additional cost themselves, or they have the pricing power to increase their prices. But the smaller mom-and-pop takeout locations that focus their menus on wing products will continue to struggle — both with price fluctuations and with the ongoing challenges they face in recovering from COVID-19. Many restaurants are not receiving the quantity of wings they need from their distributors. As a result, they are promoting specials on boneless wings or other products.

Economists are not yet predicting when chicken wing prices and supply may stabilize, so for this football season, chicken wing enthusiasts should expect their wallets to take a sack!