Billions of wings, equal numbers of feet

Homemade_buffalo_wings1.25 billion. That’s the number of chicken wings that the National Chicken Council expects to be consumed by Americans participating in Super Bowl activities this weekend.

Demand like this can only increase price: predictably, wholesale chicken wing prices hit their peak in January 2013 at $2.11 per pound. This year’s price is down from that peak at $1.71.

“Although the total amount of pounds of chicken produced last year rose by about 1.8 percent, the total number of chickens processed was virtually the same in 2014 as is was in 2013,” National Chicken Council Vice President of Communications Tom Super told PR Newswire. “A chicken only has two wings; therefore, the supply of wings is limited by the total number of chickens produced.”

And the rest of the chicken? Heck, we don’t even eat the entire wing. A chicken wing consists of three sections: the drumette, closest to the body; the flat, which contains two bones and is analagous to our forearm, and the tip, all the way on the end and consisting mostly of cartilage and skin. The tips go to China, get deep-fried, and eaten as a very similar snack to the Buffalo wing. China also imports chicken feet. This was the subject of a trade disagreement at one time, with the Chinese claiming we were getting artificially low prices for our chicken feet. Uh, the price is low ’cause we don’t want them. Chinese officials eventually accepted this logic.

In fact, the chicken market in the U.S. doesn’t extend far beyond the white meat. “The boneless, skinless breast is king in the United States,” Tom Super said, this time speaking to National Geographic’s blog, The Plate. Dark meat represents the biggest part of chicken exports. It used to go to Russia and Eastern Europe, but questionable U.S. practices, like antibiotic use and chlorine rinses, have had a chilling effect on exports to Russia. Now Angola competes with them, distributing U.S. chicken throughout Africa. We also trade chicken parts with our neighbors, Canada, Cuba, and Mexico, and China’s neighbors, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

So, if you’re eating a chicken wing today, raise a drumette to those who consume the rest of the chicken, keeping the price of those limited wing segments at a reasonable level.