The first regular-season game of the NFL season kicks off Sept. 8, and just in time: Chicken wings are at their lowest prices in years.
The Department of Agriculture's price index for chicken wings is now at levels not seen since 2018, with the average wholesale price of a pound of wings falling to about $1.68 in July, and trending even lower for August.
It's a startling reversal of a trend that saw a dramatic run-up in prices for chicken wings early in the pandemic, one that coincided with broader inflation in the economy, labor shortages and surging demand for poultry as fast-food chains began rolling out competing chicken sandwiches.
But last month, Wingstop president and CEO Michael Skipworth said the company would start to see deflation in prices for bone-in chicken wings. On July 28, the company said prices had fallen nearly 19% year-over-year in its fiscal second quarter.
One reason for the rapid price decline, according to Fabio Sandri, CEO of the multinational poultry processing company Pilgrim's Pride, is simply supply and demand. On the company's most recent earnings call, Sandri explained that, earlier in the pandemic, demand for wings from home-bound eaters exploded. So to manage costs, restaurants began to replace bone-in wings with boneless wings.
That allowed supplies — and prices — for bone-in wings to return to more reasonable levels.
"We saw a very fast decline in the price of wings to the prices that we have today," Sandri said.
But on his company's fiscal second-quarter earnings call last month, he cautioned that the price declines are unlikely to last for long: As fall and winter sports ramp up, so, too, will demand — and with them, prices.
"We expect also the wings to start rising now coming the football and the basketball season," Sandri said.