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Storms and consumer demand lead to tight US chicken market

chicken wings

AMERICA’S National Chicken Council has played down reports of a chicken shortage but conceded moves out of lockdown and bad weather have made the poultrymeat market tight.

Media outlets across the country have been recording interviews with family owned restaurants unable to get supplies of ever-popular chicken wings or breast pieces for sandwiches.

See also: The impact of this winter’s lockdown on UK poultrymeat output

Both supply issues and increased demand have been blamed for the tight market.

Americans stuck at home are ordering dishes like wings and fried sandwiches that lend themselves well to take-aways.

Fast-food chains have been competing to bring their own versions of Popeye’s fried chicken sandwiches to market, leading to higher demand – this trend has been dubbed the ‘chicken sandwich wars’.

Production challenges

And covid-related processing closures, as well as Storm Uri hitting poultry producing regions earlier this year, have hampered production.

Tom Super, spokesman for the National Chicken Council, told Poultry.Network supply was “somewhat tight – but the sky certainly isn’t falling”.

“The ‘chicken sandwich wars’ have definitely led to an increase in demand for breast meat. And with restaurants opening back up as restrictions begin to lift, chicken processors have had to adjust their product lines and supply chains to get back to a more “normal” retail vs. foodservice mix.

Wing demand

Mr Super added that demand for wings had been exceptional.

“Wing demand in general over the past 14 or so months have proven to be ‘pandemic proof’,” he explained.

“If you think about it, restaurants like wing joints and pizza places were built around takeout and delivery, so they didn’t have to change their business model that much during the pandemic.

“Wings travel well and hold up during delivery conditions. Plus, they aligned with consumer desire for comfort food during the pandemic.

Steady production

“Chicken production remained steady in 2020, and as long as people are sitting around watching TV and maybe drinking a beer, wings will remain in the game. Don’t forget the air fryer revolution, either.

“Bottom line – wing demand has been and remains high.

“The industry produces tens of billions of wings annually, and producers are working diligently to meet the upsurge in consumer demand by adding millions more.

“As chicken production begins to resume back to a more normal pace of output in the coming months, and there is a better supply/demand ratio, the market tightness should ease.”