What the Cluck is Going on With Chicken?

Aug 2, 2021

Chicken, the tender meat consumed by billions, is a hot topic right now as it continues to flap around in the spotlight. The infamous never ending chicken wars rage on as restaurants and chains look to implement unique spins on the classic comfort food item. In fact, Popeyes recently announced that they will be adding chicken nuggets to its menu, potentially exacerbating the “war” even further. If a chicken war sounds like some sort of sick joke to you I urge you to read the following to learn more about this phenomenon. (https://blog.marqii.com/the-never-ending-chicken-sandwich-war/).

All it takes is a few minutes of channel surfing on your television and sooner rather than later an advertisement for Burger King’s new fried chicken sandwich will appear, telling you all you need to know - fast food chains are rapidly launching their own iterations of chicken meals to win over diners.

The demand for all styles of chicken intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic as people sought comfort food whilst confined inside. Over the last fourteen months, chicken wings experienced a surge in popularity and demand. In restaurants, servings of chicken wings were up 7% in 2020 compared to 2019 despite an 11% decline in trips to eateries over the same time (NPD group). The total U.S. wing retail/supermarket sales during the pandemic months totaled almost $3 billion, up 10.3% a year ago. Additionally, the in-store frozen wing category is up 37.2% (IRI). Part of the reason for this surge is the fact that chicken wings hold up well for take out and delivery. Not to mention chicken wings fit the suit of a comfort food extremely well...and they’re delicious.

However, not all is good in the land of chicken. The increased demand has led to an extremely tight supply of the universally loved drums and flats. Restaurant owners claim to be paying almost double the original price for an individual piece of chicken. A variety of factors attributed to jacked up chicken wing prices and limited availability. COVID-19 outbreaks in chicken processing plants forced closures and disrupted the supply chain. In February, winter storm Uri disrupted supplies throughout Texas and nearby states (major areas responsible for producing chicken). Tyson, a massive producer of chicken, attributed the shortcomings to the high demand, but also to its roosters as there have been fewer eggs and lower hatch rates.

The good news though is the sky is not falling. There is no shortage for other parts of the chicken. Chicken breasts, thighs, tenders, and even nuggets are still plentiful. Restaurants and fast food establishments are figuring out ways to work around the shortages. For example, Wingstop launched an online only counterpart, Thighstop, that will deliver chicken thighs via Doordash during this chicken crisis. This is yet another occurrence in a string of ghost kitchens opening to capitalize on the increasing number of people ordering food at home. In its launch announcement, Thighstop said that it is addressing consumer fear over a wing “shortage.”