WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the second biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving upon us, there’s no hotter time for chicken wings. According to the National Chicken Council’s 2024 Wing Report, Americans will devour 1.45 billion wings while watching Kansas City and San Francisco battle for the championship trophy.
“Football is great. Wings are great. But they’re even better together,” said Council spokesman Tom Super. “Sure, you can have your chips, your guacamole, your pizza. But when it comes to menus next Sunday, wings rule the roost. So, grab a wet nap and enjoy America’s favorite party food for the Big Game.”
To help visualize just how many wings that is:
- 1.45 billion wings is enough for every man, woman and child in the United States to eat four wings each.
- If Kansas City Coach Andy Reid ate 50 wings every day, it would take him 79,452 years to eat all 1.45 billion.
- 1.45 billion wings is enough to put 693 wings on every seat in all 30 NFL stadiums.
- If laid end-to-end, 1.45 billion wings would stretch 1/3 of the way to the moon.
- If each wing represented one second moving forward, 1.45 billion would be 46 years from now, or the year 2070.
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This year’s projection is flat compared to 2023, with USDA reporting chicken production levels are slightly down from last year and wing stocks in cold storage down 13% in November compared to the year prior. This could explain the higher demand and thus the higher wholesale prices we are seeing on wings. At the retail level, fresh chicken wing prices are down approximately 5%, and frozen wing prices are down 11% compared to January of 2023, according to Circana data.
One of these days, Buffalo will get back to the Big Game which would give wing consumption a nice boost,” Super noted. “Maybe we’ll see Taylor Swift breaking out the ‘seemingly ranch’ again, to dip a wing in this time, though.”
Buffalo chicken wing history
Deep-fried chicken wings have long been a staple of Southern cooking. But one well-traveled tale of how the concept of cooking wings in peppery hot sauce was born took place in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, when co-owner Teressa Bellissimo cooked leftover wings in hot sauce as a late-night snack for her son and his friends. The guys liked them so much that the Bellissimos put them on the menu the next day. Served with celery slices and bleu cheese sauce, “Buffalo Wings” were an instant hit.
Dick Winger, who sold hot sauce to the bar, went on the road with Dominic Bellissimo, the owners’ son, to promote the item and sell hot sauce, and the item gradually caught on with restaurant operators around the country. The concept hit the big time in 1990, when McDonald’s began selling Mighty Wings at some of its restaurants. KFC rolled out Hot Wings a year later, and Domino’s Pizza introduced its own wings in 1994. They’ve remained hot ever since. McDonald’s was back in the wing business in 2013, and its Mighty Wings were featured nationwide at most restaurants through the first quarter of 2014.
Chicken wings and football – A love story
The rise of the chicken wing and its correlation to American football all had to do with timing.
Cooking the whole bird was trendy in the 1960s and 1970s, but in the 1980s, U.S. consumers started preferring boneless-skinless breast meat, and wings became an inexpensive byproduct for chicken producers. Restaurants and bars realized they could charge low prices for the relatively inexpensive protein, and due to the spicy/salty nature of the sauce, they discovered that beer sales would go through the roof when customers ate wings.
At the same time, sports bars with multiple TVs and satellite dishes were becoming more and more common in America thanks to rapidly developing technology; and the most popular sporting event to watch with friends in bars is football. Wings were easily shareable and affordable, a great “group food” to eat with other people, and are the perfect pairing with a pitcher of beer. And so the pigskin-chicken wing bond was born.
- Americans are more likely to prefer eating bone-in, traditional wings (53%) than “boneless wings.”
- Two in five (38%) Americans say that the breast is their favorite cut of chicken, but wings (20%) are second.
- While there are a variety of wing sauces to choose from, BBQ (52%), ranch (46%) and buffalo/hot sauce (41%) are the preferred.
- French fries are by far the preferred side for wings (72%), distantly followed by celery (14%).