Americans to eat 1.35 billion wings during Super Bowl weekend

February 2, 2018

By Zlati Meyer | USA TODAY

When it comes to Super Bowl stars, don’t think they’ll be limited to quarterbacks like New England’s Tom Brady or the Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Foles.

Fans everywhere will be flapping about chicken wings.

Whether these champions are drenched in sauce or simply fried, Americans love the little guys so much that they’re expected to eat a record-breaking 1.35 billion wings during Super Bowl weekend, according to the National Chicken Council, the trade association for chicken producers and processors.

What was once viewed by consumers as the most forgettable piece of a bird is now the most valuable, said Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at the research firm NPD Group.

The national retail price for a fresh tray-pack of whole wings is now $2.50 per pound, compared to $2.83 last week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This time last year, the price was $2.39.

“Fluctuating chicken wings prices are like being on a roller-coaster ride,” Riggs said.

A price surge this summer for bone-in wings sent chain restaurants and chicken companies scrambling for boneless versions. In September, prices were back down.

Once the domain of specialty restaurants and sports bars, chicken wings have flapped their way into the mainstream, whether at pizzerias, steakhouses or burger joints. Pizza delivery chain Domino’s, for example, said it expects to sell 4 million chicken wings nationwide on Super Bowl Sunday.

“It’s reached unprecedented proportions,” said Burt Flickinger III, managing director of the Strategic Resource Group, a retail and consumer goods consultancy. “Chicken wings are at their highest demand level in history and will continue like that for the foreseeable future.”

Between 2014 and 2017, the number of restaurants built around chicken wings in their names grew 18% to 8,812, Riggs said. Arby’s Restaurant Group announced in November that it was buying Buffalo Wild Wings for $2.4 billion.

“Wings are an affordable option and in some cases, can be a meal and not just an appetizer,” said National Chicken Council spokesperson Tom Super. “They are delicious. They are a great group food for sharing and socializing.”

The Super Bowl doesn’t mark the end of the season for chicken wings. He warned that because of the current low wholesale prices, wing popularity will probably rise slightly as college basketball builds toward its March Madness finale.

That won’t affect wings fans this Sunday, though. One of the millions of Americans gobbling them down as the Patriots battle the Eagles will be Laura McDaniel. The 32-year-old Bostonian is hosting a game day party with her boyfriend and plans to cook about 80 wings for their 10 guests along with sliders, veggie burgers, a green salad and pizza. She’ll also prepare several wings sauces, including traditional buffalo, ginger-soy and garlic Parmesan.

“They’re easy to eat, they’re really delicious and they’re so versatile. You can do so many different dipping sauces,” McDaniel said. “Wings don’t make you feel like you’re over-stuffed.”