Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rumored hot wing crisis jeopardizes Super Bowl noshing, but not really

Posted By on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 at 3:07 PM

click to enlarge wings_large.jpg

According to recent headlines, there’s a new threat to the most American of pasttimes — Super Bowl snacking — and it’s a looming shortage of hot wings. 

But there’s no need to panic. “We have plenty,” says Kessler Guthrie, owner of wing-famous Flamin’ Joe’s. It’s their busiest day of the year for to-go orders, he says, and they’re offering a 100-wing special with a free side order of waffle fries. (Lots of people order Super Bowl Sunday, but it’s a good idea to order at least a day in advance.) They order wings in bulk when the price is lower, Guthrie says, so that keeps the price down for consumers.

Elsewhere, The Tailgater confirms the 50-cent wing deal will continue this year, just like last Super Bowl, along with “a lot of swag drawings” and other celebratory specials.

This whole food crisis may sound familiar to bacon aficionados — last summer, a reported bacon shortage, dubbed “Aporkalypse,” threatened all kinds of favorite snacks and sandwiches. The panic turned out to be intentionally incited by Britain’s National Pig Association, but it drew attention to the very real problem of rising feed costs worldwide.

The alleged chicken wing crisis comes from the same drought crisis that affected a huge swath of the U.S. last year — chicken farmers had to scale back the number of birds they raised because of soaring feed prices. That means 12.3 million fewer wings for football fans to consume this Super Bowl, the National Chicken Council concluded, or a decrease of about 1 percent from last year.

Their report has a lot of other great nuggets about chicken wings, like the favorite dressing (ranch, preferred by 57 percent of wing-eaters) and how wings and football first got paired together (good timing). 

The report does not actually suggest there will be a Super Bowl wing shortage. In fact, the National Chicken Council’s chief economist and market analyst, Bill Roenigk, is quoted as saying: “The good news for consumers is that restaurants plan well in advance to ensure they have plenty of wings for the big game.”

The main effect is on prices, as the segment of the report titled “Wing-onomics” helpfully explains: 

“A chicken has two wings, and chicken companies are not able to produce wings without the rest of the chicken. Therefore, the supply of wings is limited by the total number of chickens produced. When the demand for wings is stronger than the demand for other chicken parts, the price of wings will go up, as it has this past year.”

When both cost and demand go up, you can be sure there are a few dishonest entrepreneurs scheming to make a quick buck: Two men were arrested in Atlanta this week for stealing $65,000 in chicken wings from their food storage employer. (Maybe they just really wanted the most amazing Super Bowl party ever.)

In other festive chicken news, Spokane’s own Uncle Dan’s will be the primary dressing supplier in the Super Bowl of wing-eating, held each year in Philadelphia. It will be bleu cheese dressing, which the National Chicken Council reports is most popular in the Northeast.

[Photo courtesy of the National Chicken Council, which has a whole gallery of astonishingly classy chicken wings]

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