Feb 9, 2022 - News

Buffalo wing inflation trickles down to Austin businesses

Yum. Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

The rising cost of chicken wings is impacting local businesses ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, and that could mean you're paying more to get the saucy finger-food on your table for the big game.

The big picture: Each chicken only has two wings, which create four wing pieces (two drumettes and two wingettes, to be precise) that are suitable for frying. The snacks are then doused in a mix of hot sauce and butter, and served to viewers and fans.

  • So when demand for wings surges but demand for the rest of the chicken stays steady, it leads to big price swings — and a fun study in microeconomics, writes Axios' Neil Irwin.

By the numbers: Chicken wing prices are soaring, not just in absolute terms, but relative to other parts of the chicken.

  • The national retail price of frozen wings was $2.98 a pound last week, according to the latest Agriculture Department report. That's down slightly from one week earlier but still higher than $2.82 per pound one year ago.
  • Meanwhile, the USDA reported lower prices for whole chickens in recent weeks compared to last year.

What they're saying: David Anderson, professor and extension economist at Texas A&M University's department of agricultural economics, said he expects the industry to respond to these inflated prices by trying to produce more.

  • "I think we'll see some more chicken production later in the year, and that means some more wing supplies," Anderson told Axios. "One of the things higher prices tell us is that we don't have enough wings supplied relative to our desire for wings, so prices go up. Prices also go up because costs have gone up."

Zoom in: Those rising costs trickle down to local businesses.

  • Justin DeLaCruz, owner of Austin-based Toss Pizzeria & Pub, said increased costs made him rethink the restaurant's wing prices in recent months: "We either have to up the price or we have to stop selling them until they come down."
  • Toss recently bumped up its wing prices, although the profit margin remains pretty thin. Fortunately, DeLaCruz hasn't seen a decline in wing purchases.
    • "We're not selling any less than we did before. The demand is still there," he said.

Of note: Toss recently launched Super Bowl pre-order specials, which include options for an extra-large pepperoni pizza for $15, a 100-wing pack for $150 and a pack of 25 wings for $45.

  • You've gotta try their Toss sauce. 🤤

Flashback: It's not just wings. Remember when broader supply chain issues trickled down to turkeys during the holidays.

The bottom line: People like things that are delicious, and relative chicken prices are starting to reflect that.


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