As the NFL season kicks off this week, football fans have an even bigger problem to worry about than their favorite quarterback getting injured: a nationwide chicken wing shortage. With wholesale chicken wing prices on the rise, dive bars and tailgaters are facing the prospect of saying goodbye to 25-cent deals and mountains of all-you-can-eat wings.
So, why now? Why wings, the most snackable of all chicken parts? How long will the chicken wing economy suffer this scourge?Part of the cause is seasonality. "Wing prices typically peak three times a year: before the Super Bowl, March Madness, and around the end-of-summer grilling-slash-beginning of football season," explains Tom Super of the National Chicken Council (you read that right). But that doesn't account for the overall chicken wings spike from over the last few years. The industry dynamics behind that change actually uncover some interesting truths about the way Americans eat meat today."The whole wing market is a fairly new phenomenon," says Russ Whitman, a market analyst at commodity reporting company Urner Barry. "Way back when, wings weren’t even worth anything. They were complete byproducts." As legend has it, Buffalo wings were invented one night in 1964, when a Buffalo-area mom decided to toss some leftover ingredients into the deep fryer and see what happened. Decades later, wings are a multi-billion dollar industry, with entire fast-casual franchises devoted to wing worship.
But the backlash to these Teenage Mutant Ninja Chickens® wasn't far behind, as consumers became more dubious (for both health and ethical reasons) of factory farms. Things really took a turn when, earlier this year, people started noticing a troubling trend in their chicken. Chicken breasts that had once been pink and fleshy were starting to show unappetizing "white striping," a change that indicated a less nutritious meat with a higher fat content. The public outcry was so great that the poultry industry took notice, scaling back their breeding and feeding programs to produce slightly less gargantuan creatures....MORE