Strong Demand Makes Wings Price Fly

US - Chicken wings have become so popular that prices are rising fast and some outlets are struggling to stay in business.
calendar icon 2 March 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

It's getting more expensive to be a wing man – or woman – these days, according to USA Today. The skyrocketing cost of chicken wings is causing restaurant and tavern owners to raise menu prices and threatening to put some out of business.

Ken Moran, owner of Rochester, New York's Jeremiah's Tavern, which has had to increase menu prices twice in the past year, said: "Chicken wings once were so cheap. It was an attempt to use all the parts of the bird. Now it's reversed. They've gotten pretty crazy in terms of popularity."

Andy Howard, head of purchasing and product development for the Texas-based Wingstop chain, said: "Wings used to be a throwaway item. The poultry guys couldn't even give it away. Now prices have gone through the roof."

The primary factor driving up wing prices is the growing number of restaurants, including many national chains, that are adding wings to their offerings, says Richard Lobb, spokesman for the Washington-based chicken industry trade group the National Chicken Council.

According to the Agriculture Department, the average wholesale price of wings in 2009 was $1.47 a pound, up 39 per cent from 2008 and the highest it has been, adjusted for inflation, since the mid-1970s.

Mr Lobb says it is not a matter of simply raising more chickens. The nation's chicken producers turned out nine billion birds in 2009, he says. Other than for wings, the recession has slowed demand, and the overall price for chicken has been soft.

"As expensive as wings are, they cannot carry the entire bird," Mr Lobb told USA Today.

Steve DeLorme, who with his father Skip operates Country Sweet Chicken & Ribs in Rochester, cites spiraling costs as one reason for closing two locations last month.

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