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Who Will Win? #TeamChickenWing or #TeamPorkRib

Posted by Michael Sheats, AMS Livestock and Poultry Program and Lillie Zeng, AMS Public Affairs in Food and Nutrition
Feb 01, 2021
Team Chicken Wing card
Team Chicken Wing card. Photo credit: Emily Garman

Sitting down for the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 might look a little different this year, but one thing remains the same: you need the perfect game day protein to fuel up for the Big Game. America has spoken and it’s down to chicken wing or pork rib - which team will you be on?

Data shows that chicken wings are the perennial favorite.

Chicken wings have three parts, but only two are typically eaten: the drum and the flat (also called wingette) – the tip is often discarded. Years ago, the wing’s small size and limited meat often meant it was discarded – but now it makes the perfect finger food. Wings are typically barbecued but they can be fried, baked, or grilled. Barbecued wings have dominated sports game snacks since the ’60s and the first Super Bowl, held in 1967.

USDA’s 2021 Super Bowl trends report shows that how fans prefer their wings varies by region. The South Central region – especially Texas – leads this year in preference for fresh wings. The Northeast, which used to lead the nation in its fondness for fresh wings, has gradually developed a preference for store deli-prepared wings in a variety of flavored sauces. The Southeast favors quick frozen and pre-cooked frozen wings over the rest of the nation. The Southwest prefers deli fried and baked chicken, especially for big packs of 100 or more pieces. The Midwest is a close second for deli wings and is a strong contender for fresh/frozen uncooked wings and for pre-cooked wings.

The increased demand for chicken wings on Super Bowl weekends sometimes exceeded availability, leading to higher prices for fans.

Team Pork Rib card
Team Pork Rib card. Photo credit: Emily Garman

Enter the top challenger: the pork rib.

Another perfect finger food, pork ribs are inexpensive, widely available, and gaining popularity in many parts of the country. Like the chicken wing, the pork rib was once considered a low value item that was prepared simply, typically boiled. That changed in early 20th century with the increased popularity of slow-cooked barbecuing. With leg and shoulder cuts most in demand, low-cost pork ribs were widely available and, by the 1920s, barbecued pork ribs were being eaten across the nation. In the late 1940s, the “St. Louis” style of cutting ribs was developed and the square-shaped rib tip, or riblet, became an alternative to the chicken wing.

Southeasterners lead the nation in preference for fresh rib offerings of all types. Fans in other parts of the country support their own favorites with the Northeast a close second for St; Louis ribs, the Central U.S. for baby back ribs and for country or western-style ribs (cut from the butt and technically not part of the rib but delicious nonetheless), and the Northwest for boneless country ribs. Pork riblets have seen increasing popularity and fans in the Southeast and Southcentral regions favor them over all other areas.

Not a chicken wing or pork rib fanatic? No problem. Alternatives like pulled pork and sausage have entered the game.

  • Boneless, barbecue-flavored pulled and shredded pork is perfect on a bun and easily held in one hand leaving the other hand free for a beverage.
  • Pork dinner sausages and bratwurst, typically summer grilling favorites, get their first big marketing boost of the year during the Super Bowl and are increasingly popular with football fans.

So, this Feb. 7, will you be on Team Chicken Wing or Team Pork Rib, or will you go for something entirely different? Does your preference line up with your region or are you a trail blazer?

Share your choice in the comments and check back on Feb. 2 to get the low down on how to safely prepare your protein.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition

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Comments

Luis A. Mendoza
Feb 05, 2021

the pork rib is my favorite because it takes skills and time to prep and cook to make perfect tasting BBQ ribs when compared to wings and dipping sauces.

Janine Van Vark
Feb 05, 2021

Love those pork ribs!

Larry Stidham
Feb 05, 2021

I am team Chicken Wing because the wings are easier to fix and you can fix them in so many different ways. Besides that, you can pick them up with your fingers and eat them! lol

Matt Teter
Jul 09, 2021

Hmm, I'll tell ya what, put two plates in front of me one with ribs and one with wings and I will let you know.