WASHINGTON — In a shift that the National Chicken Council described as “unprecedented” last week, the weighted average wholesale price of chicken wings has outpaced the price of boneless, skinless breasts by 35 cents per pound, with wings selling for $1.48 per pound in Northeastern U.S. markets, and breasts selling for $1.13.
“The demand for wings from casual dining restaurants, carryout stores and retail groceries is extremely strong,” Bill Roenigk, senior vice president and chief economist for the NCC, said in a release.
Roenigk added that “wings have never outsold boneless, skinless breast on a sustained basis,” and that boneless breast has been the chicken industry's premier product in terms of price since the product's debut in the 1980s, sometimes selling for as much as 90 cents per pound more than wings.
The shift is attributed primarily to the growing popularity of Buffalo wings as appetizers and entrees at casual dining restaurants, the growth of restaurants that specialize in wings, and an increase in sales of wings through pizza restaurants and delivery chains.
The NCC estimates that 2 billion pounds of wings will be sold through restaurants and other foodservice channels in 2009, while 800 million pounds of wings will be sold in retail grocery stores. Wholesale prices are expected to rise further in the fourth quarter this year, as they typically do when restaurants stock up for football season and events like the National Football League's Super Bowl in early February.