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It all Began with a Football: How the Super Bowl Shaped the Chicken Industry

Posted by Michael Sheats, Director of the AMS Agricultural Analytics Division in Food and Nutrition
Feb 03, 2016
Super Bowl infographic and chicken wing facts
Infographic of Super Bowl & chicken wing facts. Click for a larger version.

On January 15, 1967, the Green Bay Packers faced off against the Kansas City Chiefs in the very first Super Bowl.  On that day, few of the estimated 51 million fans gathered around their television sets realized the profound impact the Super Bowl would have on chicken consumption in the United States.  The Packers won the game 35-10, but ultimately the real winner was chicken – particularly wings.

In 1967, Americans consumes 32.6 pounds of chicken per capita, typically purchased in whole-bird form.  Cuts of chicken were a novelty at the grocery story, and there was little demand for chicken wings.  But, in 1964, the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y. decided to turn the typical soup-stock staple into a spicy finger food to feed a hungry crowd.

For a few years after they first served them, wings gained popularity in the bar scene—then came Super Bowl I, turning them into a sporting event tradition.  Since that first game, chicken wings have become a staple of football gatherings and tailgaters, even carrying over into other major sporting events with the annual college basketball tournaments and the college and pro football season rivaling the big game for wing consumption. In fact, any big sporting event that generates a crowd increases demand for chicken wings.

On the day of Super Bowl I, the wholesale price for chicken wings on the New York market was 23 cents per pound. Today, chicken consumption is estimated at 90.1 pounds, a 176 percent increase from 1967.  This past week, chicken wings averaged 197 cents per pound, a 743 percent increase.  At current prices, wings account for nearly a quarter of the whole bird value!

In 2015, the U.S. chicken industry produced around 28.5 billion chicken wing portions – the drumette and flat portions of the wing, which excludes the tip portion that is typically exported.  At least 5.6 percent of those chicken wing portions were marketed during the week leading up to the big game. That’s 1.6 billion chicken wing portions flying through the fingers of eager football fans across the nation! A similar volume is expected to move for this year’s big game. With an estimated viewership of nearly 115 million, that’s about 14 wings per viewer.

A lot has changed for chicken since that fateful day in 1967. But one thing has not – they still only come with two wings!

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition