Big game means big sales for chicken wings

Published 11:06 pm Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Millions of people have been waiting a whole year for Super Bowl Sunday, but not the chickens. They’re heading for the hills.

Super Bowl Sunday rivals Thanksgiving as the biggest eating day of the year but it’s chicken wings, not turkey, that the gridiron grubbers devour.

According to the National Chicken Council’s 2012 Wing Report, more than 1.25 billion chicken wings will be consumed on Super Bowl weekend. That’s more than 100 million pounds of wings and, if the wings were laid end-to-end, they would circle the circumference of Old Mother Earth more than twice.

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While that’s disturbing news for chickens all across the United States, those numbers put dollar marks in the eyes of poultry growers and marketers. And Alabama poultry farmers just can’t help but grin.

Poultry is Alabama’s largest industry and America’s third largest poultry producing state, with an estimated economic impact of $9.4 billion.

The National Chicken Council reported that about half of the chicken wings purchased on Super Bowl weekend will be from restaurants and half from retail grocery stores.

Steve Garrett, owner of the Piggly Wiggly on U.S. 231 said chicken wings are as hot on Super Bowl Sunday as the championship game.

“Wings are popular all during football season, especially on big game days but nothing like on Super Bowl weekend,” Garrett said. “It’s definitely a chicken wing weekend. We’ll sell four times as many wings as on other big game days.

“At Christmas, it’s ham. On Thanksgiving, it’s turkeys. On Super Bowl Weekend, it’s wings.”

Garrett said it’s amazing how the consumer demand for chicken has flip-flopped.

“We’ve changed the way we look at chicken,” he said. “Wings now cost more than breasts. And, a lot of it has to do with the way wings are marketed for the sports fan and as a party food. They are served with chips and dips and beer and the Super Bowl is a party weekend.”

Local fast-food restaurants are gearing up for the rush on wings with specials.

Robert Jones at Crowe’s in Troy said he has doubled up on his order for wings in anticipation of the Super Bowl blitz.

“It’s been that way in past years and I’m counting on a selling a lot of wings on Saturday and Sunday for the Super Bowl parties,” Jones said.

Just as chicken wings are a boom for supermarkets and restaurants so are they for poultry farmers.

The chicken wing craze is definitely a positive for poultry farmer, said Frank Talbot, a Pike County poultry farmer. “But we don’t waste any part of the chicken. Pickled chicken feet are delicacies in Japan and China. Every part of the chicken, from the wings to the tip of its toes, can be turned to cash money.”