At Donovan’s Pub in Woodside, New York, this season’s record corn crop means owner Dan Connor is offering a new special for football fans: free chicken wings.
“Normally during football season, there’s such a spike in prices for wings that it directly affects us,” said Connor, who expects to serve as many as 2,000 chicken wings during this year’s Super Bowl and will offer a free 8-piece order for patrons who buy a bucket of beer. “This year, it hasn’t been so much of a concern.”
Chicken wings are at the lowest price heading into the National Football League’s championship game since 2011. The biggest ever U.S. corn crop cut feed costs for farmers and allowed them to ramp up production of the meat. That’s good news for Americans who will eat 1.25 billion wings during this year’s Super Bowl on Feb. 2, the National Chicken Council estimates. Consumers will pay less at the grocery store and get more discounts and specials at bars and restaurants.
“Any time we increase production, it means two wings for every single additional bird that we slaughter,” Russell Whitman, vice president of the poultry division at commodity researcher Urner Barry in Toms River, New Jersey, said in a telephone interview. “That adds up.”
Wholesale wings sold by processors in Georgia fetched $1.30 a pound on Jan. 22. That’s the lowest, seasonally, in three years and 36 percent below an all-time high of $2.04 set in January 2013, government data show. U.S. chicken output will rise to a record 38.9 billion pounds in 2014, the Department of Agriculture estimates. The price of corn, which makes up more than two-thirds of chicken feed, plunged 40 percent in 2013.
More chickens mean “favorable” prices for consumers, who will eat 20 million more wings and pay about 5 percent less than they did for last year’s game, Bill Roenigk, an economist at the National Chicken Council in Washington, said in a statement Jan. 22. Americans will eat the equivalent of putting 572 wings on every seat in all 32 NFL stadiums, according to the council. About 75 percent will come from food-service outlets, while 25 percent will be from grocery stores.
Chicken output is rising as food inflation slows worldwide amid record harvests from the U.S. to India. Global food costs have fallen 14 percent from an all-time high. U.S. farmers collected a record 13.925 billion bushels of corn last year after fields recovered from a 2012 drought that was the worst since the 1930s. The price of the grain has tumbled almost 50 percent from a record $8.49 a bushel reached in August 2012.
About 8.65 billion chickens were slaughtered last year, or 70.98 million more than in 2012, the USDA said yesterday. Stockpiles of wings in cold storage surged 29 percent to 87.97 million pounds last month, from 68.41 million pounds a year earlier, the USDA said this week. That’s the highest for December since the data begins in 2003. The wholesale price declined in two of the past three months.
At Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap in Chicago, lower prices will mean chicken wings can get dressed up this year with extra peppers, cheese and bacon.
“We’re definitely seeing better profit margins, and it’s also allowed us to be a little more creative with our specialty wings,” Tony Bisciglia, the 36-year-old general manager, said in a telephone interview. “We’re doing a wing-of-the-month club, with a house-cured bacon and cheddar wing. Typically, with bacon, you’re adding another cost, but there’s less stress around that. We’re not necessarily dropping prices, but we’re trying to add value to the product.”
The Denver Broncos will face the Seattle Seahawks in this year’s game, which will be played at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Wholesale wings in the U.S. Northeast averaged $1.136 a pound this month through Jan. 22, the lowest for January since 2011, according to data from Urner Barry.
“This time last year, things were a lot more stressful when it came to the cost side of things,” said Bisciglia, who estimates Jake’s will pay about 40 percent less for as much as 2,500 pounds of wings the bar will serve on game day. “For prices to be dropping this time of year is very rare.”
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