3 min read
A plate of hot wings with celery and beer in the background.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — Whether they are fried, baked, grilled or smoked, chicken wings will be in plenty for Super Bowl LVIII. Last year, because of record-high prices in 2022, wholesale chicken wing demand reached a decade-low — prompting prices to fall just in time for the big game. The current trend shows that consumers can expect a similar situation in 2024 but with some added competition. An Alabama Cooperative Extension System poultry economics professor shares his Super Bowl outlook for chicken wings.

Leading Up to Now

A chart showing the history of wholesale chicken wing prices from 2017 to 2023

A chart showing the history of wholesale chicken wing prices from 2017 to 2023. (Photo credit: USDA)

The COVID-19 pandemic sent supply chains for poultry and many other commodities into a frenzy. Most supply chains have stabilized, but chicken wings experienced a dramatic supply and price cycle that has finally started to approach normal.

Associate Extension Professor Dennis Brothers, who specializes in poultry economics, said the United States is witnessing another year of lower chicken-wing prices, compared to the extreme high prices in summer 2021, when wing prices were more than $3.40 per pound.

“From a record high in 2021 to a low of less than 90 cents per pound wholesale by the end of 2022, wings are now back to approximately $1.65 wholesale,” Brothers said. “This is below, but closer to, the historical, pre-COVID prices.”

Brothers said the high sale prices of wings in recent years influenced the overstock of chicken wings. This change made the burden on wallets around the country slightly smaller because of a high inventory of frozen chicken wings. Yet, overall current retail prices do not reflect the lower wholesale cost — especially in restaurants.

What can you expect?

In 2024, wing lovers can expect a large inventory of frozen wings in the grocery store at a reasonable price.

“The inventory of frozen wings is still strong going into the football playoff season,” Brothers said. “This year, overall poultry production is maintaining at a strong rate, promising to keep us all in plenty of wings.”

According to recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the national average retail feature price (prices advertised in grocery flyers) was estimated at $4.29 per pound at the height last year. Now, just ahead of the upcoming Super Bowl, the national average feature price is down nearly $1.70 per pound to $2.62 as of mid-January. This dynamic of the chicken-wing supply chain also means that restaurants want in on the action.

“Retail prices may not have decreased as much as wholesale,” Brothers said. “Retail outlets continue to try to capitalize on good wholesale prices, but competition for your wing dollar may further drive retail prices down.”

Could there be a wing war?

According to Brothers, a plethora of low-cost wings might send business-to-business competition into a wing war. However, this could be a good thing for wing consumers. Some may recall the chicken sandwich war of 2019 when certain food chains launched their own version of a chicken sandwich. This competition caused a friendly feud over who made the tastiest product.

A similar situation may occur with chicken wings. Some chains are already launching new wing products and are even permanently adding them to menus around the country. Brothers said only time will tell if there is an explosion of chicken wing products this year. Regardless, he said to be prepared with a lot of wings for Super Bowl Sunday.

Don’t be Chicken

This year, gather friends together to watch the big game on the big screen with a platter of chicken wings, of course. They are sure to be a crowd (and wallet) pleaser in 2024. For more information on poultry economics or commercial poultry production, visit the Poultry section of Alabama Extension’s website, www.aces.edu.