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Super Bowl Wing Supply Said to be Okay

Chicken wings, that is, and whether a major supplier’s bankruptcy (Pilgrim’s Pride) and rising prices will cut short supplies of the popular football snack.

The National Chicken Council (NCC) in Washington estimates that more than one billion wing portions will be served during the weekend that ends with the game February 1.  As large as that number seems, the weekend accounts for less than 5 percent of annual chicken wing demand, the council said in a news release.

"About 24 billion wing segments will be marketed this year, and that doesn't count the wings that stay on chickens sold whole, breast portions with wings, or whole chickens cut up," the release said.

Fears that chicken wing supplies will run out are unfounded, said Richard Lobb, director of communications for the Council. And blaming a shortage on Pilgrim's Pride's bankruptcy alone is a "wild exaggeration," he said. "Eat all you want. There are plenty more," Lobb said last week.

Most wings are sold through foodservice contracts, mainly to restaurants, according to NCC. Restaurant sales account for 8.5 billion wings or 1.8 billion pounds. Another 3.5 billion wings, or 750 million pounds, are sold in grocery stores.

Chicken production has been trending downward over the past few months as major chicken suppliers slow down operations in the wake of high feed and fuel costs in 2008, Lobb said. He noted the council has tracked an estimated 5 percent production cut across the entire chicken market. The cut in production has contributed to some higher prices for some chicken, he said. "All the big companies have announced cutbacks in production," Lobb said.

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