Rising cold storage supplies of U.S. chicken wings contributed to lower wholesale prices at end of 2021
Chicken wings are a popular snack in the United States, especially during seasonal sporting events like the Super Bowl and the national college basketball championships. Their popularity as a takeout food during the early months of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic depleted inventories to their lowest since 2012. Wholesale chicken wing prices began climbing in 2020 as cold storage levels swiftly declined due to pandemic-related supply chain disruptions. At the end of January 2021, chicken wing inventories in cold storage were 27 percent lower than in January 2020. Wholesale prices were 180 percent higher in April 2021 than a year earlier. It was the largest year-over-year percent increase, coinciding with the largest percent decrease in cold storage levels in 2021. Wholesale wing prices peaked at $3.25 per pound in May of 2021, the same month that cold stocks of wings began a recovery that continued through the rest of 2021. As wing stocks in cold storage increased in late 2021, wholesale prices fell—while remaining above year-ago levels. In January 2022, wholesale wing prices averaged $2.68 per pound, 24 cents higher than in January 2021, but down 49 cents from the 2021 peak. This chart is drawn from the USDA, Economic Research Service Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook, February 2022.
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