Every year the National Chicken Council issues its annual Wing Report projecting the volume of seasoned chicken wings that will be consumed by ravenous, party-going Americans while watching the biggest football game of the year on TV.
For licensing reasons, NCC needs to refer to the event as “the Big Game.” Fortunately, the clever guy who writes the report is named Tom Super — and he always does a super job. NCC’s Wing Report therefore provides subtle clues about the scope, date and location of “the Big Game” it’s describing.
With Modern Poultry focused on live production, the editors thought any story involving nearly 1.5 billion chicken wings was front-page news. Following are edited excerpts from NCC’s 2024 report, drizzled with Modern Poultry’s proprietary hot sauce.
With Americans’ second biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving fast approaching, there’s no hotter time for chicken wings.
According to the NCC’s 2024 Wing Report, Americans will devour 1.45 billion wings while watching the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers battle for the championship trophy.
“Football is great. Wings are great. But they’re even better together,” says NCC spokesman Tom Super.
“Sure, you can have your chips, your guacamole, your pizza. But when it comes to menus this Sunday, wings rule the roost. So, grab a wet nap and enjoy America’s favorite party food for the Big Game.”
To help visualize just how many wings will be consumed, Super tells us:
- 1.45 billion wings is enough for every man, woman and child in the US to eat four wings each.
- If Kansas City Coach Andy Reid ate 50 wings every day, it would take him 79,452 years to eat all 1.45 billion.
- 1.45 billion wings is enough to put 693 wings on every seat in all 30 National Football League stadiums.
- If laid end-to-end, 1.45 billion wings would stretch one-third of the way to the moon.
- If each wing represented 1 second moving forward, 1.45 billion would be 46 years from now, or the year 2070.
More finger-lickin’ numbers for your palate:
- Americans are more likely to prefer eating bone-in, traditional wings (53%) than “boneless wings.”
- Two in five (38%) Americans say that the breast is their favorite cut of chicken, but wings (20%) are second.
- While there are a variety of wing sauces to choose from, BBQ (52%), ranch (46%) and buffalo/hot sauce (41%) are preferred.
- French fries are by far the preferred side for wings (72%), distantly followed by celery (14%).
This year’s wing projection is flat compared to 2023, Super reports, with USDA reporting chicken production levels are slightly down from last year and wing stocks in cold storage were down 13% in November compared to the year prior.
“This could explain the higher demand and thus the higher wholesale prices we are seeing on wings,” Super says.
At the retail level, fresh chicken wing prices are down approximately 5%, and frozen wing prices have dipped 11% compared to January of 2023, according to data from Circana, a company that tracks and analyzes consumer behaviors.
One of these days, the NFL’s Buffalo Bills will return to the Big Game, which Super thinks would yield “a nice boost” for wing consumption.
“Maybe we’ll see Taylor Swift breaking out the ‘seemingly ranch’ again, to dip a wing in this time, though.”
Buffalo chicken wing history
Deep-fried chicken wings have long been a staple of Southern cooking. But one well-traveled tale of how the concept of cooking wings in peppery hot sauce was born took place in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, when co-owner Teressa Bellissimo cooked leftover wings in hot sauce as a late-night snack for her son and his friends.
The guys liked them so much that the Bellissimos put them on the menu the next day. Served with celery slices and bleu cheese sauce, “Buffalo Wings” were an instant hit.
Dick Winger (who else?) — the guy who sold hot sauce to the bar — went on the road with Dominic Bellissimo, the owners’ son, to promote the item and sell hot sauce, and the item gradually caught on with restaurant operators around the country.
The concept hit the big time in 1990, when McDonald’s began selling Mighty Wings at some of its restaurants. KFC rolled out Hot Wings a year later, and Domino’s Pizza introduced its own wings in 1994. They’ve remained hot ever since. McDonald’s was back in the wing business in 2013, and its Mighty Wings were featured nationwide at most restaurants through the first quarter of 2014.
Chick wings and football — a love story deeper than Taylor and Travis
The rise of the chicken wing and its correlation to American football all had to do with timing.
Cooking the whole bird was trendy in the 1960s and 1970s, but in the 1980s, US consumers started preferring boneless-skinless breast meat, and wings became an inexpensive byproduct for chicken producers.
Restaurants and bars realized they could charge low prices for the relatively inexpensive protein. Due to the spicy and salty nature of the sauce, they discovered that beer sales would go through the roof when customers ate wings.
At the same time, sports bars with multiple TVs and satellite dishes were becoming more and more common in America thanks to rapidly developing technology; and the most popular sporting event to watch with friends in bars is football.
Wings were also found to be easily shareable and affordable — a great “group food” to eat with other people and are the perfect pairing with a pitcher of beer.
And so the pigskin-chicken wing bond was born.