The Latest Chicken Wing Crisis: Too Much Meat on the Bone

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Despite the alarmist headlines that surfaced around the time of the Super Bowl, there is no real shortage of chicken wings in the marketplace. But sellers are facing an odd wing problem lately: The chickens they come from are getting bigger and bigger.

Why is that a problem? Bigger chickens equate to bigger wings—and more meat per wing provided by restaurants and wholesale suppliers. The result is that “five wings yield more ounces of chicken than six used to,” as Buffalo Wild Wings CEO Sally Smith told stock analysts recently, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Bigger birds, which have been produced by years of breeding improvements, are great for businesses that sell chicken breasts and thighs by the pound. Wings, on the other hand, are generally sold to consumers not per pound but per unit. As the amount of meat per unit has increased, so have prices. A rise in demand due to the popularity of chicken wings among diners, as well as a hike in feed prices due to last summer’s drought, have also pushed up per-wing prices.

(MORE: Why Restaurants Hate Restaurant Week)

The most obvious way consumers are affected is with escalating wing prices in supermarkets and restaurants. Buffalo Wild Wings, for instance, hiked prices across the board by 4% last fall. But the situation may also change how wings are listed and sold at restaurants, the results of which may cause diners to grumble in aggravation, if not hunger.

As the trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News reported last month, Buffalo Wild Wings has been testing a new wing pricing system in several dozen locations around the country. Diners no longer choose a dozen wings, or 20 wings, or any specific number of wings. Instead, the menu lists wings according to Single, Double, or Triple orders, or perhaps in sizes like Snack, Platter, and Meal.

A final decision regarding how wings will be priced and sold is expected to be made sometime in the second quarter of 2013, and a tweaked menu will be introduced in August. Smith told NRN that the test pricing systems “haven’t been getting pushback” from customers, so long as the restaurants have done a good job of educating diners how they work. “I think a lot of it has to do with how we explain to our guests … whether we’re serving five wings for a small order or six wings and making sure that the guest understands,” said Smith.

(MORE: Why Restaurants Have Been Holding Back on Hiking Menu Prices)

What this means to consumers is that the next time you try to order a dozen wings at a restaurant, the waiter may respond by asking, “Um, do you mean Small, Medium, or Large?”

3 comments
RatDaddey
RatDaddey

NJ, This is INSANE!!! I just came from the store,, $2.29Lb for Breasts and $2.09Lb For Wings and get this,,, that's a SALE PRICE TO BOOT,, Well pardon me but, I'm Sorry,  Wings are NOT NOW nor have They Ever Been a PREMIUM cut of YARD BIRD ...They are the SCRAP pieces of the Bird , The least desirable,  cheapest pieces of the bird!.... Hey PURDUE and TYSON how but a little Tongue action or some foreplay next time b4 I get bent over...Wings should be no more than .69 cents / LB at the most,, What is going on here,, How come people are paying these ridiculous PRICES .... DAMN IT!!! I for one will never pay this $$$ again....

aanaway
aanaway

Well I have to say the I used to Love Hooters wings. So I guess they have not found these bigger, meatier wings. Theirs bearly have any meat these days. I would gladly pay more or get less for the same quality wing. I am not trying to push them however when you find a good wing, you stick with it. I used to live in Northern California and there was a place outside of Moffett Field call St. James Infirmary  I had an awesome roommate that when I moved to Hawaii, back in the late 80's brought me an order of their wings on the plane when she came to visit. They were that good! Of course it was allowed then...I good wing, Is a good wing!

normfarris4
normfarris4

It seems to me that they should stick with the same designation and just change the portion size to match the prices.  I wouldn't mind because meatier wings are better than the tiny ones.  If you charged $10 for six wings, then charge $10 for five wings.  What restaurants really hate is the fact that increasing wing size makes it harder to short change customers. If a small order used to have "around" 10 pieces, the restaurant could slide the number down to 8 pieces with none the wiser. Now the larger pieces make it easier to count and the customers can notice more easily when they are short changed.

Another disadvantage to larger wings, they are harder to cook.  Wings are a pain as it is because the point between undercooked, just right and overdone is really close. A larger wing magnifies the problem. 


Finally, the ridiculous mark up on wings is harder to get away with. People will say" 20 bucks for six wings, ar you kidding me??"  Maybe the could keep the prices the same if the decreased their mark up. Consider, why does a pound of wings cost you $3 in the supermarket, but $20 in the restaurant? Seems like the $15 mark up could cover the temporary price spike in wings.