‘What we need is a 4-winged chicken’: Restaurants say chicken wings in short supply

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Many restaurant owners say there’s a short supply of chicken wings and they’re struggling to get them.

Craig Fairhurst owns Moe’s BBQ in downtown Matthews. He recently had to remove wings from the menu.

“It’s kind of a crapshoot to see if they show up or not,” he told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke. “You may order 10 cases, they may send three, they may send none.”

Fairhurst has been charging $7 for six wings. But he said he may have to charge more because of the shortage.

A few doors down at Kristophers, wings were temporarily removed from the menu there as well.

East Coast Wings and Grill emailed its customers, including a Channel 9 producer, stating that there’s a “manufacturing crunch” and apologized for selling wings outside its “specs.”

This weekend, a Channel 9 photographer tried to order 10 “traditional” wings from Buffalo Wild Wings online but got a message stating the item was not available.

Inventory is down because of supply chain issues caused by the pandemic and the winter storms in the Gulf, where a lot of chicken is produced.

Officials with the North Carolina Poultry Federation told Stoogenke, “breast meat and boneless dark meat are also very tight, just not as much as wings.”

Representatives with the National Chicken Council told Stoogenke that wing supplies are tight, but wouldn’t go as far as to say there is a shortage, adding that wings in general, over the past 14 or so months, have proven to be “pandemic proof.”

“If you think about it, restaurants like wing joints and pizza places were built around takeout and delivery, so they didn’t have to change their business model that much during the pandemic.”

According to council representatives chicken production remained steady in 2020 but wing demand has been high, especially with other contributing factors such as the growing popularity of the air fryer.

Representatives with an organization that tracks restaurant growth, the NPD Group, told Stoogenke restaurants went down 11% last year, but wings went up 7%. The representative said that “speaks to the popularity of the menu item.”

Officials with the North Carolina Poultry Federation expect the demand for wings to remain high as the weather gets warmer and more people start grilling. As more COVID-19 restrictions are lifted or eased, more restaurants will be reopening as well.

The representative said, “what we need is a 4-winged chicken.”