Restaurants deal with nationwide chicken wing shortage

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HIGHLAND, Ill. – Toilet paper; now chicken wings?

The owners of Nuby’s Steakhouse in Pocahontas, Illinois, and E. L. Flanagan’s in Highland, Illinois, said they haven’t been able to serve chicken wings like usual in their restaurants. The owners said they’ve been dealing with a chicken wing shortage from their suppliers.

Owner Connie Richardson said in her 30 years of business she’s never seen this.

“We had started stocking up about a month ago a little here and there and we’ll just deal with it – if we run out of boneless, we have the option to do bone-in,” she said.

Nuby’s Steakhouse has a deal on chicken wings on Thursday nights. They had to ration their chicken wings this Thursday and were out of bone-in chicken wings by 5:15 p.m.

“We’ve just been telling people that if they call, they will be rationed and well ask that they switch over to boneless for tonight,” Richardson said.

Stee Heimsath, the owner of E. L. Flanagan’s, said they canceled their weekly chicken wing deal which is usually held on Wednesday’s.

“It’s a predicament, we had to cancel our wing Wednesday promotion because we weren’t certain we would have the wings,” Heimsath said. “Some of the vendors are rationing who they’ll give wings too.”

Heimsath said he paid about $60 for a box of chicken wings in fall 2020, but now he’s paying more than double, at about $135 for the same box of chicken wings.

Richardson said her supplier’s price has increased about 33%.

“Prices always go up around Super Bowl time, but they’ve never came down this year,” she said.

The National Chicken Council said 2020 chicken wing sales were up 7% even amid the pandemic. Wings were a popular pandemic takeout food, but that isn’t the only reason restaurants are in this fowl predicament.

“The labor in the packing plants, they’re having trouble getting workers,” Heimsath said. “Some of it had to do with the uncertainty of last year that they had to cut back on production because they didn’t know what was going to happen with the restaurants being closed.”

“Wing supplies are tight, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say there is a ‘shortage,’” Tom Super, National Chicken Council, said. “Chicken producers are doing everything they can to overcome the devastating impact of Mother Nature when she inflicted the once in a lifetime winter storm on Texas and nearby states – major chicken producing regions. It will take time and effort to eventually replace the impacted hatchery supply flocks in that region.”

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