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Super Bowl Chicken Wings Flying to Record High: Chart of the Day

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Chicken wings, a staple food of Super Bowl parties in the U.S., will be the most expensive ever during this year’s National Football League championship game as demand rises and processors cut output to trim losses.

The CHART OF THE DAY shows that wholesale prices for wings sold by processors in Georgia, the biggest chicken state, are up 52 percent in the past year, while whole birds rose just 6.2 percent. About 3.615 billion chickens were slaughtered in the five months ended Nov. 30, down 3.5 percent from a year earlier and the smallest total since 2000, government data show.

“Chickens only have two wings, so when the supply declines the price will rise because demand is relatively inelastic,” Paul Aho, an economist at Poultry Perspective, a broiler industry consultant in Storrs, Connecticut, said in a telephone interview yesterday. “People really want wings, and the recession doesn’t seem to have an effect on demand.”

Consumption usually peaks in the first three months of the year, fueled by the American football title game, which will be held on Feb. 5, and college basketball’s annual championship tournament in March. About 23 percent of the people watching the Super Bowl on television will eat wings, and 1.25 billion wings will be eaten during that weekend, according to Harris Interactive data supplied by the National Chicken Council

Prices rose to a record $1.79 a pound on Jan. 13, after doubling in six months, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show. More than 13.5 billion wings were sold in 2011 with about 70 percent going to restaurants including Buffalo Wild Wings Inc., said Tom Super, a vice president at the council. Whole chickens advanced to a record 90.25 cents a pound last week, up 6.2 percent from a year earlier.

“Production has been declining since May, and that means 2012 should be positive for the chicken industry,” after producers lost money on almost every pound they produced last year because of high feed costs, Aho said. “Prices do rise when you cut back on supply, confirming the laws of economics.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Wilson in Chicago at jwilson29@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steve Stroth at sstroth@bloomberg.net

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