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Wing prices inch higher as Super Bowl nears

1.45 billion wings and drumsticks to be eaten Super Bowl weekend.

Krissa Welshans

February 7, 2024

4 Min Read
Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Michael Miller

Football fans should expect slightly higher chicken wing prices this year as more than one billion wings are expected to be eaten during Super Bowl LVIII, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

The National Chicken Council (NCC) estimates 1.45 billion chicken wings and drumsticks will be consumed during the Feb. 11 football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers.

“Football is great. Wings are great. But they’re even better together,” said NCC spokesman Tom Super. “Sure, you can have your chips, your guacamole, your pizza. But when it comes to menus next Sunday, wings rule the roost. So, grab a wet nap and enjoy America’s favorite party food for the Big Game.”

Over the past few decades, chicken wings and drumsticks have become a favorite snack for sports fans during Super Bowl. David Anderson, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension economist in the Texas A&M Department of Agricultural Economics, Bryan-College Station, doesn’t expect that long-term trend to change.

Their popularity for game day and casual dining has made wings, once an afterthought cut of meat, into one of the most valuable cuts from a chicken.

“Chicken wings are here to stay,” Anderson said. “They were a poultry cut that used to be practically worthless. But once someone created buffalo wings and added some ranch dressing or blue cheese, you had something great. Now they’re so popular that more and more restaurants want to capitalize on their sales. I don’t see that changing.”

Wing prices could take flight

According to NCC, this year’s consumption projection is flat compared to 2023, with USDA reporting chicken production levels are slightly down from last year and wing stocks in cold storage down 13% in November compared to the year prior. NCC said this could explain the higher demand and thus the higher wholesale prices on wings. At the retail level, fresh chicken wing prices are down approximately 5%, and frozen wing prices are down 11% compared to January of 2023, according to Circana data.

Anderson said chicken wing lovers may frown to hear they could pay more per pound this year compared to last, but wholesale prices are still below the five-year average.

Wholesale prices are $1.76/lb. compared to $1.02/lb. last year, Anderson said. But that’s still below the five-year average of $2.02/lb. and the $2.66/lb. consumers paid going into Super Bowl week 2022.

“Chicken wings are here to stay. They were a poultry cut that used to be practically worthless. But once someone created buffalo wings and added some ranch dressing or blue cheese, you had something great.”

Last week, retail prices for wings remained lower than last year, Anderson said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture “National Retail Report” for chicken showed whole wings averaged $2.60/lb. compared to $3.30/lb. in 2023 and $3.80/lb. the year before.

Anderson said the roller coaster prices were a direct result of seasonal demand created by the Super Bowl along with supply and demand market forces over the past two years.

Historically high prices in 2022 on all chicken cuts encouraged more production while likely driving consumers to other meat options, he said.

“Last year we had dramatically lower prices, which led production to be scaled back some, and that lower production has now led to some of the price increases we’ve seen,” he said. “It’s a great snapshot of the cause-and-effect from the production side to the consumer side and vice versa.”

Nothing bigger than the Super Bowl

Anderson said the popularity of buffalo wings parallels with a beef cut that was once considered cheap – the brisket – and the booming popularity of barbecue. Another parallel beyond high demand and subsequent high prices for both is that production is limited by animal physiology.

Like barbecue, the popularity of wings has fueled its expansion into the food and service industries, including specialty chain restaurants and sports bars. Anderson attributes much of the chicken wings’ growth directly to its status among sports fans.

“Wings are everywhere now,” he said. “Even pizza places are doing wings, and a large chicken chain is putting them on their menus just in time for the Super Bowl. But a lot of the wings’ position in popular culture today has been driven by businesses desire to cater to sports fans, and nothing is bigger than the Super Bowl.”

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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