Yes, that is 1.3 billion, with a "b." With the second biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving upon us – Super Bowl Sunday – there's no hotter time of year for chicken wings, America's new favorite party food.
According to the National Chicken Council's 2016 Wing Report released today, 1.3 billion wings will be eaten this weekend leading up to and during Super Bowl 50, as fans watch the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos battle for the Lombardi Trophy. That figure is up 3%, or 37.5 million wings, from last year's big game.
It comes as no surprise that chicken wings have become a staple on Super Bowl menus as Americans' demand for them continues to soar. Wings recently flew to the top of the rankings of The Today Show's "Super Bowl Snack Bracket," handing a snack smack-down to nachos, guacamole, salsa, chili and other popular menu items.
Where will Americans get their wings?
The National Chicken Council estimates that of the wings eaten during the Super Bowl, 75% will come from food service outlets and 25% from retail grocery stores. According to CHD Expert's foodservice database, Easy2FIND, over 300 new Chicken Wing restaurants opened in 2015, including more than 30 in December 2015.
Chicken wings sold at grocery stores and supermarkets skew towards households with three people or more, younger Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and females 35-54, according to IRI FreshLook Household Panel Data.
"Each one of these categories presents an attractive target for retailers," said Tom Super, senior vice president of communications at the National Chicken Council.
The average price (wholesale, not retail) of whole wings is currently about $1.78/lb., down from around $2.00/lb at the same time last year, according to the Daily Northeast Broiler/Fryer Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service.
Wing prices traditionally go up in the fourth quarter of the year as restaurants and supermarkets stock up for the Super Bowl, and prices usually peak in January during the run-up to the big game.
"A chicken only has two wings; therefore, the supply of wings is limited by the total number of chickens produced," Super pointed out.
"Chicken production last year was up around 4%, and USDA is predicting another two-plus percent increase in 2016. So an increase in supply, coupled with exports being down, means there are more wings on the market trying to find a home; and hence, at a lower price."