Whether you favor crispy sandwiches or Buffalo wings, supplies are running low on every part of the bird.

By Mike Pomranz
May 07, 2021
Advertisement

If you haven't noticed America's obsession with chicken, you haven't been paying attention. In 2019, Popeyes brought the chicken sandwich trend to the mainstream and started the so-called "chicken sandwich wars" that fast food chains are still fighting to this day. Then the pandemic hit, causing an explosion in the food delivery industry where chicken wings have emerged as king. Suddenly, everyone from Applebee's to Guy Fieri to Chuck E. Cheese has started slinging wings through delivery-only "ghost kitchens."

So what has America gotten from its two-year chicken binge? The obvious, actually… a chicken shortage! Yes, we did it, guys. We've eaten all of the chickens.

People grabbing chicken off the a serving plate at a family style wedding dinner.
Credit: EyeWolf/Getty Images

This week, The Wall Street Journal came hard with some truly staggering numbers: Boneless skinless chicken breast is reportedly currently trading at $2.04 per pound, double last year's average price and significantly up from the ten-year average of about $1.32. Chicken wing prices are also at record highs, up to $2.92 per pound. "The overall supply is constrained," Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison—who said their wholesale price for wings is up 26 percent from last year—told the business paper. "That affects every part of the bird."

In a truly eye-opening anecdote, the WSJ reported that even KFC was using some subtle techniques to try to cut down on people's chicken consumption to deal with their supply limits—things like removing chicken tenders and Nashville Hot chicken items from online menus and taking down in-store promotions for $30 fill-up buckets. "We look forward to getting back to business as usual, once we get past this period of industry supply constraints," a spokesperson was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, don't expect any relief if you're planning to have a chicken sandwich battle in your home kitchen: Grocery prices for boneless breasts are also 11 percent higher from last year, up to $3.29 per pound. And guess what: It could get worse. "Grilling season is just around the corner, when chicken demand is seasonally the strongest historically," added Fabio Sandri, CEO of America's second largest chicken seller, Pilgrim's Pride.

Not that Sandri is complaining: Pilgrim's Pride reported a profit of $100 million last quarter, a 50 percent jump from the year before… just in case you were wondering who is really winning the chicken sandwich wars.