The Chicken Wing Has Become a Luxury Food

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Apparently, people love chicken wings so much that the price is “skyrocketing,” with restaurants seeing their wing costs rising to unprecedented levels.

The Washington Post shares the sad tale, with one Maryland chef telling the paper that his wholesale-wing costs have jumped more than 60 percent, from $1.80 per pound to a feather-ruffling $2.90. Buffalo Wild Wings, meanwhile — the King of Wings — reported that profits dropped nearly 63 percent in the second quarter of this year due in part to “historically high wing costs.” In an earnings call last week, the chain’s CFO told participants that the price of “traditional wings” was 6 percent higher than this time last year, and now on half-price-wing Tuesdays, they serve “boneless chicken wings,” which aren’t even chicken wings at all, but strips of chicken breast deep-fried to look like wings.

The problem is that demand for the bony little morsels is just too high, says Erik Oosterwijk, president and founder of Fells Point Wholesale Meats. The question these days isn’t who serves wings, but who doesn’t: There’s Wild Wings and Bonchon and Wingstop and Wing Zone and Hooters, the Post muses, and that doesn’t even count the many pizza chains that are now winging it (Domino’s, Papa John’s). There are sports bars. There are dive bars. There are regular bars. Back in the boneless, skinless-obsessed ’80s, wings were a sad chicken by-product, and now we cannot get enough of them. Since 2009 or so, wings have in fact outpriced breasts — people are tired of breasts, Oosterwijk says — and now, the once-humble little wings are “the most expensive part of the chicken.”

If there is hope, it’s that Oosterwijk says he’s able to give a better price on just the wingette part of the wing — not the drumette, but the other, bonier part — and even though it is objectively the worse part, a wing is a wing, even if it’s only half a wing, and customers have so far been happy to oblige.

The Chicken Wing Has Become a Luxury Food