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Chicken Wings Are Getting Even More Expensive Right Before the Big Game

"Next week should be a barn burner," the USDA says in its latest chicken price report.

Chicken wings and American football have a long shared history.

While the popular Buffalo-style wing dates back to 1964, it wasn't until the 1980s that the finger food became a predominant game-time snack.

Two emerging trends brought poultry and pigskin together, according to the National Chicken Council. Americans starting turning away from whole chickens in favor of lean boneless breast meat, and the wings became a cheap byproduct as a result. Bars and restaurants, meanwhile, began selling these affordable afterthoughts just as new technology—satellite and cable TV—provided them with expanded in-house entertainment options, particularly in terms of sports.

The combination of salty, spicy snacks and hours of onscreen action proved a huge boon to beer sales and a winning combo for the ages. Nowadays, the pairing just seems like second nature.

RELATED: The One Chicken Wing Chain That Chefs Actually Rave About

On Feb. 12, the distinctly American ritual of eating chicken wings and watching football will reach its yearly zenith when the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles compete for the NFL's Lombardi Trophy. Millions of U.S. viewers will be watching on TV, and while they do, an awful lot of them will be gnawing on chicken wings.

Any day now, the National Chicken Council will announce its annual forecast of just how many chicken wings U.S. viewers will consume during this year's Big Game. Last year, it was some 1.42 billion wings. If history is any indication, that number will be even bigger this year.

But we already know one thing: the price you pay for these game-time delicacies will most certainly be higher than usual.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average national retail price for whole wings is now $2.62 per pound, up 7% since the prior week and up almost 56% since last July.

That's a far cry from the record $3.25 per pound set in May 2021 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when home-bound consumers demanded the comfort food like never before.

But there are still two more reporting periods to go before kickoff, leaving plenty of time for prices to edge ever upward. "Next week should be a barn burner," the USDA noted in its most recent chicken retail report last Friday.

Chicken wing prices usually go up around this time of year as demand surges leading up to the Big Game, but the spikes of the past few years have been especially steep. Before the pandemic, the prior peak was $2.13 per pound in September 2017, but by the following January, the average price was down to $1.56 per pound, according to National Chicken Council's 2018 wings report. Last year at this time, however, the average price was almost double that figure—$2.98 per pound, per USDA figures.

The cost of all sorts of other game-time favorites are surging right now as well. According to a report released today from e-commerce company Pattern, the price of mozzarella sticks is up 27%, jalapeño poppers is up 9%, guacamole is up 5%, and tortilla chips is up 5%.

Chris Shott
Chris Shott is the Deputy Editor covering restaurants and groceries for Eat This, Not That! Read more about Chris