Thanks to the coronavirus, there’s a massive chicken wing surplus in the United States

·3 min read

Chicken wings sales generally peak twice during the year: around the Super Bowl and the NCAA tournament.

The former went off without a hitch, providing sports fans across the country with the perfect food for the big game. The latter, though, was canceled entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

As a result, there is now a massive surplus of chicken wings in the United States.

Yes, seriously.

“The basketball, it’s for real,” said Erik Oosterwijk, president of Fells Point Wholesale Meats in Baltimore, via the Washington Post. “The basketball didn’t happen. People are not going to restaurants and there’s a lot of excess.”

According to the Washington Post, wings are now being sold for a little over than $1 per pound, roughly half of what they went for around the Super Bowl. There were nearly 1.25 million pounds of wings sold the week that the NCAA tournament was supposed to start last month, per the report.

This week, there were just 433,000 pounds sold.

“Those are millions of pounds of wings that people don’t eat,” Oosterwijk said, via the Washington Post. “And if [coronavirus] happened in January and February, it would have been the Super Bowl that got hit. There’s no doubt there’s a lot of food out there today.”

Classic chicken wings-based restaurants — think Buffalo Wild Wings, Hooters and Wingstop, to name a few — are either closed completely or limited to takeout only, too, adding to the surplus even more.

“The major wing chains that should be hot this time of year are closed,” said Will Sawyer, an animal protein economist at CoBank, via the Washington Post. “The food service side of things, they probably still have wings they bought weeks ago getting ready for March Madness and for people to come watch the games, but they’re not selling them.”

Wing producers have been experimenting with a few options to deal with the surplus in recent weeks, per the report, including closing processing and packaging plants, restricting the number of eggs allowed to hatch, and even limiting chickens’ food so they grow at a slower rate. Suppliers have been trying to divert food from restaurants to grocers, too, or even freezing wings in a hope that the market bounces back soon.

At this point, it’s still not clear when the sports world will get back to normal. As of Thursday afternoon, there were more than 450,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times. Sports leagues across the country are hoping to resume operations again in the near future — and some are even making tentative plans to do so — but there is no set date in place. Many even fear that sports this fall, including both college football and the NFL, will be severely altered due to the pandemic.

So until sports return, whenever that may be, don’t expect many chicken wings to be eaten across the United States. The two go hand in hand — apparently more than we realized.

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