LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — They have become a game day staple for many hungry sports fans and as chicken wing supply prices surge amid a dwindling nationwide supply, some Las Vegas eateries are debating whether to raise prices or find creative solutions to keep the items on their menus.
According to the National Chicken Council, Americans consumed 1.4 billion chicken wings during Super Bowl LIV in January 2020.
For perspective, if you ate three wings per minute, it would take 900 years to eat that many, according to the council.
The reason, experts say, is because food processing prices have increased amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The council points to recent findings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which revealed, broiler (chickens raised for meat) head produced was down 4% in the first quarter of 2021 and pounds produced down 3%.
Severe weather in Texas this winter and surrounding areas also led to supply chain troubles.
The result means restaurants are seeing their supply costs surge.
"When I started in this business, I could get 40lbs of wings for $46, now it's over $100," said Chef Brian Peace of Wing King of Las Vegas.
Peace says he has turned to purchase chicken thighs, which currently cost around $26 for the same amount and mix the product together to sell as a menu item.
He says it’s the classic supply and demand economic principle. There’s far more demand for wings than thighs, therefore the cost is much higher.
There are also chicken alternatives.
“Vegan wings are probably 35 to 40% of my business believe it or not being a wing place, we are not like other wing restaurants," said Peace.
Peace adds he relies on the profit margins with other menu items, including CBD and Delta 8 THC infused food items to make up the money he's losing on wings.
"Without it, I don't know if we would be in business," added Peace.
Also ranked in the top 10 of Las Vegas wing joints, Naked City Pizza recently posted the restaurant would be forced to increase prices to keep up with the cost of supplies.
The National Chicken Council says production is ramping back up as we head into summer.