Why Are Chicken Wings So Expensive Now?

Chicken wings are a hot commodity for restaurants these days, with limited supply and prices being double or more than they were in previous years. As a result, some restaurants are adjusting with higher prices, and some are even removing them from the menu altogether.

In previous years you could get chicken wings for as cheap as $0.25 a wing, though in 2019, you’d be looking at $10 for ten traditional wings, and that price has likely increased by 30% or more in 2021.

Why Are Chicken Wings So Expensive Right Now?

One of the biggest factors why chicken wings are so expensive right now is that demand has increased hugely since the start of the pandemic. People have shifted from eating at restaurants to ordering food and eating at home, and chicken wings are comfort food that comes in a wide range of flavors.

It’s interesting to note that it’s chicken wings that are expensive; while other parts of the chicken have increased in price, they’re nowhere near the price increase that chicken wings have had. 

When you look at a large chain like Buffalo Wild Wings, they offered ten traditional chicken wings for $12.49 in 2019 but now provide the same for $15.99, which is an about 20% increase in price to the consumer. 

Why Else Are Chicken Wings So Expensive Right Now?

Pandemic Issues

During the pandemic, there are have been a huge number of outbreaks of COVID at chicken processing plants, which has shut them down and caused numerous disruptions in the supply chain of chicken in general. Unfortunately, once opened back up, there is nothing to say there won’t be another outbreak, which has happened to some.

In some cases, chicken processing facilities have found themselves without enough staff to process all of the chicken, which, coupled with COVID outbreaks, means the chickens are killed. For example, a single chicken processing facility in Delaware had to kill 2,000,000 chickens due to staffing shortages, and that’s just one facility.

The pandemic has caused other supply chain issues, and production delays, including chicken food, so less chicken can be raised and fed for human consumption. In the past 1-2 years, there have been significant supply chain issues with chicken feed.

Chinese Demand for Canola Oil

Canola oil is in short supply, but it’s not due to supply chain issues. Instead, China has been busy buying as much Canola oil as possible, threatening the supply to other countries. This increase in demand has fueled higher prices for Canola oil, which then causes higher prices in chicken feed.

Natural Disasters

Unrelated to COVID, there was a major cold snap in Texas which provides much of the US’s chicken; this was an extended and devastating freeze that killed millions of chickens, further reducing the supply of chicken to the US. 

The weather was an unexpected natural disaster that will likely not happen again, but it did cause issues that would have happened no matter what demand there was or if there was a pandemic or not.

What Is Being Done To Increase Supply Of Chicken?

The National Chicken Council in the US has indicated that increased demand and the once-in-a-lifetime freeze in Texas have caused a temporary price increase. However, Texas facilities are already back up and raising chickens with other chicken processing facilities ramping up production as well to meet demands.

Chicken processing was down by only 4% in early 2021; with processing ramping up, there are 2-7% increases in chicken processing every month in 2021, so it’s only a matter of time before processing matches consumer demands that have skyrocketed since the pandemic started.

There are no predictions when supply will meet demand, and restaurants around the US are still seeing high prices and limited supply, especially the smaller restaurants that don’t have agreements in place for guaranteed chicken supply.

Chicken Wing Price Increase Comparisons

Chicken wings have increased in price since 2019 across the board, it’s a small change, but these are large chains that have access to agreements that distributors need to legally keep. So smaller restaurants will be the last to get access which means higher prices for them or missing out altogether.

Some restaurants are even modifying how many wings you get or only include them in a mixed order of other chicken pieces. This is primarily because chicken wings are the most expensive part of a chicken right now, which further shows that there is just a greater demand for chicken wings right now despite other issues.

Buffalo Wild WingsChillisKFCPopeyes
Traditional Chicken Wings 2019$12.49$9.99$10.60$7.69
Traditional Chicken Wings 2021$15.99$11.69$12.59$10.81

Will Chicken Wing Prices Drop?

Chicken wings have been increasing in demand and price for the entire pandemic, with natural disasters and supply chain issues hampering many restaurants’ access to them. As production increases, prices for chicken wings may have stabilized, but I don’t think restaurants will lower their prices back down.

If restaurants can charge more for chicken wings for over a year, then there is no incentive to lower prices once they get the raw product for cheaper. In most cases, it’s a small change that many people may not even notice and will slowly get used to if they do see it.

Once the supply is increased to the appropriate levels, it will likely just mean that smaller restaurants will start offering chicken wings again, and menus will start reflecting more chicken wing options again, with many restaurants opting for the higher prices that are currently being charged.

Your best bet will be to buy your own chicken wings and learn to cook them yourself for a cheaper option that you can get hot and in any flavor you want. Most grocery stores still offer frozen or fresh chicken wings for a reasonable price; though overall food prices are increasing, it will still be cheaper than a restaurant.