Don't cancel your Super Bowl plans at Buffalo Wild Wings. Don't raid the grocer's poultry section.
No, there's no chicken wing shortage. Everybody, calm down.
A rash of news stories has spread worry about a looming wing shortage, just in time for Super Bowl Sunday. The National Chicken Council, a D.C.-based trade group, sent out a press release this week telling that chicken companies produced one percent fewer birds last year due to last summer's drought, which cut into corn production, raising prices on chicken feed. And lest we all forget, the council helpfully explains that chicken anatomy is a limiting factor in wing production.
"A chicken has two wings, and chicken companies are not able to produce wings without the rest of the chicken," says the NCC's press release.
Meanwhile, Americans will continue to eat their fill, consuming an estimated 1.23 billion wings on Super Bowl weekend.
But basic economics dictates that a shortage just won't happen (and, in fact, the council itself insists that there's no need to worry about a shortage in its press release). The reason is simple supply and demand.
"This is going back to economics 101," says Tim Petry, a livestock economist at North Dakota State University. "Surpluses and shortages do not exist if the price system is working. In other words, if we have less, the price goes up to ration the amount that's available to consumers."
So while consumers will be able to get their hands on wings, they may have to pay a bit more. Petry points out that wing prices are higher than they were last year. Currently, wholesale prices are around $2.10 per pound, he says, up from around $1.85 in early 2012. Prices also tend to go up in January of every year, with football being the primary reason.
It's also worth mentioning that chicken wing freak-outs have happened plenty of times before. The nation fretted before the Super Bowl in 2009 that a shortage was going to ruin parties everywhere. In late 2009, USA Today reported on a wing shortage, then did so again in March 2010.
It's not just wings that induce this kind of panic. When a U.K. trade group predicted a bacon shortage last year, the Internet exploded. But bacon remained (and still remains) in grocery stores, well-stocked as always.
Be it bacon or broilers, these types of panics are almost always overblown, says one expert.
"Any time when you see meat products pull back on production, you tend to get these waves of stories: 'Oh, we're going to run out,'" says Chad Hart, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University. "No, we won't, but you will pay more for it."