Chicken wings are a welcome anomaly amid high food prices. The average price fell from a high of $3.25 per pound in May 2021 to $1.68 per pound in July 2022, the lowest monthly average since May 2020. According to (PDF) to the US Department of Agriculture.
Demand for chicken wings surged during the height of the pandemic, as people stayed home and ordered more takeout, increasingly turning to comfort food. On a conference call with investors and analysts in late July, Fabio Sandri, CEO of poultry processing company Pilgrim’s Pride, said many restaurants changed their menus to include chicken wings. to meet the growing demand for fried goodness. “During the pandemic, what we saw was a huge appetizer wing that all the pizza parlors and all the other quick-service restaurants were adapting,” he said.
Demand has since declined, said Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation, the trade association representing the state’s turkey and chicken producers, in an email. Monthly average prices for boneless chicken breasts and whole birds also fell in July, the USDA reported. Wholesale leg quarter prices have increased, although they are still one of the cheapest parts of the chicken.
As wing prices soared to more than $3 a pound last year, Sundri said some restaurants removed wings from their menus and replaced them with cheaper cuts. “So with that, we saw the cost of fins drop pretty quickly to what we have today,” he said.
For example, in June 2021, Wingstop made a Virtual brand—which means online orders only—is called “Thighstop” to allow customers to order chicken thighs instead of wings due to increased prices.
The shortage of labor in the poultry industry is being addressed.
Labor shortages are another factor in high food prices. Chicken producers in California have raised entry wages for open positions and are “almost fully staffed,” Mattos said. During the peak of the pandemic, Covid-19 hit food and agriculture workers particularly hard because they faced some of the highest risks of contracting the virus due to working in close quarters, which has made food Contributed to supply chain disruptions in the industry and, ultimately, high food prices
Like many food items, demand is also linked to seasonal factors. Industry experts expect the demand for feathers to increase as the football season begins.