Wingin’ it toward the Super Bowl

by Joel Crews
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It has become clear that what turkey and ham are to Thanksgiving and Christmas, chicken wings are to the Super Bowl. More people than ever before will likely crowd in front of TVs and unprecedented amounts of orange-colored sauce and blue cheese dressing will dot the chins, shirts and laps of wing-loving football fans throughout the US on Feb. 5. Whether attributable to better marketing efforts or sports fans’ evolving palates, wings are in the starting line-up of foodservice menus and retail meat cases and their popularity provides ample fodder for the many storylines surrounding Super Bowl week.

The National Chicken Council thankfully fueled the feeding frenzy last week with the release of its 2012 Wing Report. When analogies used to illustrate the consumption of any food item include the number of times the Earth could be encircled by those items if laid end-to-end (twice in the case of chicken wing consumption during this year’s Super Bowl weekend, by the way), that popularity is no longer a fluke. The NCC predicts 1.25 billion wing portions to be consumed during Super Bowl weekend, totaling more than 100 million pounds of wings.

And this popularity has been building for several years en route to this year’s fevered pitch. In late 2009, with chicken production numbers expected to drop to the lowest point in decades, the supply of chicken wings became the subject of many pre-Super Bowl, business news reports (including a report from USA Today) and even spawned the introduction of “boneless” chicken wings at hundreds of foodservice outlets struggling to meet growing demand.

One story published in Meat&Poultry in late 2009 (see: “Flying high”) identified the surge in the popularity of wings in the US and how it sent shockwaves throughout the poultry industry. This trend saw dark meat wholesale prices exceed per-lb. prices for boneless, skinless breast meat, due in large part to the growing demand for chicken wings in the US.

And the coverage hasn’t been limited to just the US foodservice industry, as football fans in Canada have proven to be just as rabid about their chicken wings as their southern neighbors (to see one such story, click here).

Processors too, realize the valuable link between NFL football fans and their chicken wings. In an NFL season nearly interrupted by a labor dispute, Sanderson Farms CEO, Joe Sanderson, expressed his hopefulness that players and owners would come to an agreement and wing devouring would continue to be a favorite winter pastime among fans.

“This thing will be resolved, it’s going to be a great season and a great season for wings,” he said in a meatpoultry.com story published this past March.

Indeed, the 2011-2012 season did ensue, and during the days leading up to Super Bowl so too have the press releases and promotions designed to whet the appetites of fans everywhere. M&P has included these reports in this week’s news (click here for an example) as the industry has come to recognize and bask in the holiday-like celebration that is the Super Bowl. Go Giants!

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