WASHINGTON – More than 13.5 billion chicken wings (more than 3 billion lbs.) will be marketed in 2011 as wings as opposed to the wings on whole chicken or breast quarters, states National Chicken Council estimates. Of these, approximately 9.5 billion wings (2.2 billion lbs.) will be sold through foodservice channels. Another 4 billion wings (800 million lbs.) will be sold in retail grocery stores.

Most wings, especially those destined for foodservice, are disjointed, with the third joint (the thin part known as the flapper) being exported to Asian countries. The meatier first and second joints are sold domestically. The total number of wing portions sold is more than 25 billion since the vast majority of wings are cut into segments.

When demand for wings is stronger than the demand for other chicken parts, the price of wings increase. Prices usually peak in January during the weeks running up to the Super Bowl – which is the biggest time of the year for wings. NCC projects more than 1.25 billion wing portions will be consumed during this Super Bowl weekend — which totals more than 100 million lbs. of wings.

Wings have become a staple of casual dining. Every casual dining chain offers chickens wings as an appetizer if not an entrée. Several chicken companies make chicken wings, in a wide variety of flavors and styles, for sale to foodservice outlets. They are usually shipped fully cooked and frozen and are prepared for the customer in a fryer.

Ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat wings are showing up more in the deli and prepared-foods sections of supermarkets, which are the same products that are sold to bars and restaurants. Ready-to-cook (raw) wings are also popular items in the supermarket meat case.