The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in many ways. One thing that hasn’t changed: America’s love for chicken wings. This is no more apparent than on Super Bowl weekend, when Americans are expected devour a record 1.42 billion wings while watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers battle for the Lombardi Trophy.
This figure is up 2 percent from last year, according to the National Chicken Council’s annual Wing Report.
There are several reasons for the uptick, says National Chicken Council spokesman Tom Super. “If you think about it, restaurants like wing joints and pizza places were built around takeout and delivery, so they didn’t have to change their business model that much during the pandemic. Wings travel well and hold up during delivery conditions. Plus, they align with consumer desire for comfort food during the pandemic. Chicken production remained steady in 2020, and as long as people are sitting around watching TV and maybe drinking a beer, wings will remain in the game. Don’t forget the air fryer revolution, either.”
How do 1.42 billion chicken wings stack up? Picture this:
- Assuming Kansas City Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid can eat three wings per minute, it would take him more than 900 years to eat 1.42 billion wings.
- 42 billion wings could circle the circumference of the Earth 3 times.
- 42 billion wings laid end would stretch 19 times from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
In restaurants, servings of chicken wings were up 7 percent in 2020 versus 2019 despite an 11 percent decline in trips to commercial restaurants over the same time period. Additionally, total U.S. wing retail/supermarket sales during the pandemic months totaled almost $3 billion, up 10.3 percent from a year ago. The in-store frozen wing category is up an astonishing 37.2 percent.
U.S. Department of Agriculture data also confirm the “hot” demand. According to the most recent Cold Storage Reports, there was a 29 percent reduction in November and a 24 percent reduction in December in year-over-year wing inventories in cold storage, meaning restaurants and retailers took a lot of wings out of freezers and stocked up months in advance for the big game.
A recent National Chicken Council survey also reiterated that the pandemic didn’t keep people from their wings — in fact, one quarter of respondents said they ate more wings during the pandemic. Additional wing findings include:
- Americans are more likely to prefer eating bone-in, traditional wings (53 percent) than “boneless wings.”
- Two in five (38 percent) Americans say that the breast is their favorite cut of chicken, but wings (20 percent) are second.
- While there are a variety of wing sauces to choose from, BBQ (52 percent), ranch (46 percent) and buffalo/hot sauce (41 percent) are the preferred.
- French fries are by far the preferred side for wings (72 percent), distantly followed by celery (14 percent).