Chicken wings on a plate with vegetables
Source: Pixabay

COVID-19, Supply Issues, and Cravings Are Contributing to a Chicken Wing Shortage in the U.S.

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Oct. 22 2021, Published 9:47 a.m. ET

The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to several shortages, from semiconductors to blue paint. The latest to hit the news is the nationwide chicken wing shortage. Some places are facing limited supplies, and consumers are frustrated with higher chicken wing costs. When is the chicken wing shortage expected to end?

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Poultry producers are struggling to meet the demand for chicken wings. That demand has risen significantly since the economy reopened and a number of fast-food restaurants are introducing chicken sandwiches to their menus. The U.S. has decreased its exports of chicken wings to Mexico to meet its own domestic demand.

Why is there a chicken wing shortage?

Restaurants that offer wings and pizza are famous for takeout and delivery options, and food delivery skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand considerably outstripped supply due to many people buying wings amid the epidemic.

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why is there a shortage of chicken wings
Source: Pixabay

The pandemic, however, wasn’t the only thing that threw the supply-demand equation off. The Texas power crisis in 2021 left around 200 of the state's 1,900 broiler houses without power. As a result, a significant number of chickens died, further squeezing the supply chain. Record-breaking winter storms in the southcentral U.S. also resulted in the death of several chickens.

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Furthermore, larger restaurant and retail chains rely on national meat-cutting companies, such as Perdue, Tyson, and other large industrial meat-processing facilities. Their processing plants have been coping with labor shortages, which have resulted in lower production. Some factories were forced to shut down for weeks at a time amid lockdowns, and suppliers are now having difficulty finding employees to process chicken.

why is there a shortage of chicken wings
Source: Pixabay
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To meet demand, some restaurants have been forced to remove wings and certain specials from their menus or raise pricing. Buffalo Wild Wings has said that most of its sports bars are running low on chicken wings.

Chicken wing prices have been rising

There’s no shortage of chickens, but wings are the most popular part. During the pandemic, chicken prices also increased. In April 2020, the price per pound for a whole chicken was $2.80 on average, the cheapest since 2016. Prices began to rise again in 2021 after hovering around $3.30 for the rest of 2020. The price increased from $3.99 per pound in Jan. 2021 to $5.22 in May 2021.

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Higher costs for chicken wing suppliers and restaurant owners are an issue because there are several restaurants that offer wings and they must compete with each other. As consumers are sensitive to price rises, restaurants must either bear the brunt of increased costs or increase prices.

When will the chicken wing shortage end?

The shortage may not end any time soon—it's likely to persist until at least the end of this year. Some restaurants are recommending that consumers consider alternative options, such as thigh meat. Thighstop, a virtual brand launched by Wingstop, allows consumers to buy a thigh meal online for pickup at more than 1,400 stores or for delivery through DoorDash.

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