Price of chicken wings doubles amid worker shortage

NOW: Price of chicken wings doubles amid worker shortage

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The food and beverage industry is taking a hit, and once again it’s Covid related. The wholesale price of chicken wings has in some cases, doubled in the last year.

Beer and wings, they go together. We’ve talked to a bunch of bar owners in Milwaukee Wednesday, May 12, who say they’re either having a tough time finding bone-in wings to sell, or those wings are so expensive, they’re losing money by keeping them on the menu.

For bars and restaurants that have wing nights, and even at a market place that sells fresh poultry, bone-in wings are getting pricey.

“I mean I’ve seen spikes and prices on the whole bird side, on the boneless skinless breast side, but I’ve never seen anything like this in wings. This is just, it’s incredible,” said Greg Schmidt, owner of Tower Chicken Farm Inc.

For 25 years, Schmidt has seen the usual spikes in chicken demand, from Christmas through Super Bowl Sunday.

“Then they kind of taper off a little bit until March Madness gets here, then there is another spike around March Madness that lasts for three weeks,” said Schmidt.

Food industry analysts say there are plenty of chickens, but not enough workers, and they blame Covid for that.

“When Covid happened, we know that some of the larger packing plants closed for a period of time and that caused a backlog. There’s too many chickens for our processors to work through, so we have kind of a double edged sword. The farmers are having to take less price and the consumers are having to pay more,” said Jeff Swenson, livestock and meat specialist at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

One bar owner says a pack of 300 wings last year went for $85. It’s now up to $150 and expected to go higher. Worry has spread across the industry, leading managers, even in fast food, to stay in close contact with their distributors.

“From our distributors' point of you, we look to be pretty good. They said if they felt that if we could be at risk, they would let us know right away,” said Anthony Edwards, manager of Gold Rush Chicken on Milwaukee’s south side.

Anthony Edwards says fast food places tend to use a different type of wing than the kind you find at bars.

Again, our livestock specialist says this is not a shortage of wings. There are plenty of chickens. It’s just that there aren’t enough workers to get them from the farm to your table.

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