Have a hankering for chicken wings? Expect to pay more

Wholesale prices nearly double since last year amid tight supply

Expect to pay more for chicken wings and breasts. The pandemic has tightened supplies, and a sudden surge in demand is driving prices up, forcing restaurants to adapt.

SAN ANTONIO – The early lunch rush at Wayne’s Wings has the orders flying. But for owner Dwayne Price, chicken costs are plucking his profit margin.

“The price skyrocketed 60 cents in the last month, per pound,” he said. “Some suppliers are limiting the amounts we can buy.”

He’s been able to get enough, but he’s had to raise his menu prices to cover some of his costs.

“The increase in price, it affects not just me, it affects customers,” Price said. “That’s hurting us right now.”

What happened to all the wings? Turns out it’s largely another pandemic effect. Supplies of certain cuts have not kept up with consumers’ appetites and that’s ruffling some feathers.

“Shortage is a loaded word for us economists,” said David Anderson, agriculture economist with Texas A&M. “What we’d like to have is more.”

Early in the pandemic, demand decreased and some processors had to cut production, he explained.

“Now, all of a sudden, we got going, the economy is going, people are going out to restaurants,” Anderson said. “Everybody likes chicken wings, and chicken biscuits are everywhere.”

A sudden surge in demand goosed prices up with the wholesale price of wings nearly doubling.

A year ago, the wholesale price for wings was $1.69 per pound. Last week, it was $3.35. Chicken breasts that were $1.44 a year ago are now closer to $2.25 wholesale.

“Higher prices are the signal to make more chicken, and quite honestly, it’s biology and it takes time,” Anderson said.

Adding to the challenge of increasing supplies are labor shortages and high feed prices.

The February freeze also had a negative impact on local suppliers.

As for your groceries, Anderson said the the stores have plenty of chicken, but you can expect higher prices.

For now, Price is focused on opening his second location on Bandera road, trying to hire workers and keeping his customers.

And, while the cost of chicken remains sky high, he may just have to wing it.

“Maybe we should do seafood, you know?” he said.

About the Authors:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.