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Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

Posted October 18, 2006 2:50 PM by Chris Leonard

I just picked up a few pounds of high quality marinated chicken breast at a local butcher. I paid just $1.99/lb for them. Since this was an especially good deal, I told a few co-workers about it and we got to talking about how inexpensive chicken has been of late. One of my knowledgeable co-workers stated that the increased demand for chicken wings served during football games (American Football that is) brings down the price of the rest of the chicken.

It makes sense, since each chicken only offers up 4 wing pieces and most restaurants serve them by the dozen. For every dozen wings served, 3 chickens meet their maker. When I watch the Colts with three of my friends on a given Sunday, 6-8 dozen wings are devoured; that's 18 to 24 chickens that have to be processed just to make wings for us.

Keep in mind, the lowly wing was once a cast away piece of meat, usually meant for the stock pot. It wasn't until the mid-1960s that the "chicken wing" as we know it was born. Prior to this, (actually prior to the 1980s when chicken wings really caught on), the wing was really inexpensive and the number of slaughtered chickens in the US easily covered the demand for wings. The market has apparently reversed.

So,

1) Can anyone verify the claim of lower chicken prices during football season? As above, I was able to produce a rationale, but not necessarily proof.

2) Can anyone think of a similar situation where a once throwaway item becomes more important than the premium commodity, thereby driving down the price of the whole (or at least requisite parts)?

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/18/2006 11:55 PM

I seem to remember a documentary on the food network that indicated that lobster, yes lobster, was once considered trash and fit only for the lowest of the low classes to consume...

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#8
In reply to #1

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 12:05 PM

Yep, that sounds about right. I've also heard that peanuts were once considered to be good "hog feed", but not fit for human consumption. Just try to tell that one to folks on the Atkins Diet!

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Anonymous Poster
#2

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 2:03 AM

What sort of chickens do you have over there - with 4 wings ?

Andy

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Anonymous Poster
#3

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 2:15 AM

In the US, where most chicken wings are consumed, they are typically split into 2 portions. The wing and the drumette. This is the part with the heavy bone and muscles for controling the wing. It resembles a small drumstick, hence the name. So each chicken produces 4 wing pieces.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 9:32 AM

Cute one, Chris.

So, let me see if I get this right: My wife, daughter and I went out for dinner the other night and had 25 "Buffalo Wings" (chicken wings and drumettes, as another writer pointed out). There are four of these items per chicken, so six chickens gave their all for our meal. That means there are 12 chicken breasts, thighs and other assorted parts ready to be served. Assuming that the demand for these latter items doesn't vary significantly throughout the year but the demand for Buffalo Wings increases in September, that means there is likely to be a supply of chicken being sold in grocery stores that exceeds normal demand and prices will fall.

To answer your question about other items where the 'remnants' became more valuable than the primary component, I have been told that situation arose with potato skins (also a product in demand during American football season!). With rising demand for french fries and mashed potato mixes (purchased dry in a can), there was an issue about how to handle the waste from all the peeled skins. Someone realized that the skins could be used as a container for cheese, bacon, salsa, onions, sour cream and more that was VERY tasty and the demand for the skins skyrocketed to the point where there became an excess of french fries and powdered potato mixes. (This may be an urban legend but I can tell you my mouth is watering!)

One more thought: when my kids were younger, we'd play guestimation games during dinner or while traveling (yes, it might sound boring but it really wasn't) where we would try to determine, for example, how many bananas people ate all over the world, how much land it would require to grow all those bananas (we figured it was somewhere between the size of the states of Rhode Island and Connecticut). Well, how many chickens are being raised for all these Buffalo wings? How much space do they occupy? How long do they live? How much do they eat?

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#7
In reply to #4

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 11:36 AM

MillMatt,

interesting question - i wonder if we would tell our kids and ourselves the truth...Most chickens raised for their flesh, called "broilers" by the chicken industry, spend their entire lives in filthy sheds with tens of thousands of other birds, where intense crowding and confinement lead to outbreaks of disease. They are bred and drugged to grow so large so quickly that their legs and organs can't keep up, making heart attacks, organ failure, and crippling leg deformities common. Many become crippled under their own weight and eventually die because they can't reach the water nozzles. When they are only 6 or 7 weeks old, they are crammed into cages and trucked to slaughter.

i post this not as a vegetarian activist, but as someone who grew up farming, still eats some meat (free-range and organic and humanely raised ) and works in agriculture.

we won't think twice of paying extra and putting Premium gas in our German sports car, but people will eat KFC or McD without even blinking. we are what we eat.

there are alternatives, you just have to look for them.

namaste,

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#9
In reply to #7

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 12:58 PM

And, in what I hoped was a subtle way with my kids, I was trying to get them to think about all the resources required to make our contemporary lifestyles possible. Mind you, I was learning a lot about that, too, and I still have MUCH to learn. It really didn't matter if we got the calculation right about how much land was required to grow all the bananas that we consume. But, to develop a perspective that something like the size of an entire state (albeit spread about various parts of the globe) was required JUST for bananas certainly opened their minds.

Add carrots, lettuce, potatoes and other crops that we consume on a daily basis and the amount of land, transportation resources, fertilizer and labor really take on significance. When the subject turns to livestock, the conversation takes on a much more serious tone for me which you write about. I do not have enough knowledge of what really happens with 'broilers' and it does seem to me that good engineering minds and convictions can ensure appropriate conditions and a cost-effective food supply.

Early in The DaVinci Code (the book, not the movie), a comment is made about how it has been over 400 years since we came to understand and believe that the earth rotates around the sun and not the other way around; however, we still talk about how the sun rises and sets. The point: our perceptions change VERY slowly even when we embrace the facts!

I wondered if my kids would take hold of that information they had developed about how much land was required for bananas and extrapolate their thoughts to all the toys that Santa delivers at Christmas. Even though they were well past the point of believing the Jolly Old Elf really came to everyone's home, I think we still harbor elements of such beliefs deep within our subconscious. And, so, most of us may not want to think about all those chickens and their living conditions.

But, shouldn't we?

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#10
In reply to #4

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 5:04 PM

Actually seven chickens. That 25th wing piece had to come from somewhere.

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Anonymous Poster
#5

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 9:50 AM

Chickens don't need their wings to survive. So why don't we just remove their wings during football season, they clip the wings so the chickens can't fly anyway. Then we can come back on the 4th of July and eat the rest of the chicken fried and delicious.

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#6

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 11:16 AM

A bit off-subject, but our local "Exotic Superstore" knocks out chicken wings (the 'wing' part, rather than the 'drumette') for £0.99/kg, which I think works out around $0.24/lb. Doubt very much whether they're free range or anything, but they taste great.

We don't do much by way of eating wings at football matches; I haven't noticed any marked price difference through the year for any chicken portions.

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#11

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/19/2006 11:17 PM

I used to work as an engineer designing commercial rotisseries (the ones you see in WalMart, Sams and Costco), and our service department was always busiest just prior to the Super Bowl and Thanksgiving. The stores wanted their ovens to be in 100% working order, they would run them almost all day. So the lowered price of chicken could be a valid claim.


Steve

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#12

And On the 47th Day, This Chicken Went to Market

10/20/2006 10:33 AM

Pretty interesting read....Click Me

"Wings and Drummies are considered value-added, rather than commodity products. In 2001, Tyson's Food Service division, which produces them, accounted for nearly half of the company's $10.8 billion in yearly sales. .."

Have you given this report a read? Consumption really does not change on a quarterly bias.

You might be seeing the results of a drop in feed prices and good marketing by your local retailer.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: And On the 47th Day, This Chicken Went to Market

10/20/2006 11:09 AM

Interesting stuff, but I don't think it provides conclussive data. The second link, from the USDA, shows a small growth in chicken (broilers, in this case) production during the first three quarters of the year, then a drop off in the fourth quarter. Could the falling production in the 4th quarter be due to excess chicken being on the market due to wing demand? Maybe. Although the fall (of 35-50 million pounds depending on year and forecast) in the 4th q could just as easily be due to holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) in which chicken does not play a part. There simply isn't enough data to derive a useful conclussion.

In general, there is a real danger in trying to correlate production vs. consumption via a chart like this. When would you assume turkey production would be the highest? 3rd quarter in preparation for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Nope, it's 2nd q in 2005, and forecasted as 4th q in 2006.

Interesting grist for the mill, but not conclussive.

The first article is rather interesting in that Tyson foods, which I belive is the largest US packaged chicken producer, describes the products which provide half of their yearly revenue as "value-adds".

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: And On the 47th Day, This Chicken Went to Market

10/20/2006 12:31 PM

Let's not start confusing birds...

Chicken production drops because consumption peeks 2nd quarter and drops even farther 4th quarter. Your wings seem to have no impact on the market. I believe some of the price decrease is do to clever marketing by your grocer and a possible reduction in feed prices.

"In general, there is a real danger in trying to correlate production vs. consumption via a chart like this. When would you assume turkey production would be the highest? 3rd quarter in preparation for Thanksgiving and Christmas?"

Also equally dangerous is your assumption which I'm guessing is based on no experience raising birds on a mass scale. (I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I do have background in the field) Turkey as you mention for the holidays is up both in consumption and production in the 4 quarter per the USDA report. As it should be. Why would you expect anything else? Would you want to eat a "fresh" turkey which is 3 months old? I wouldn't tt takes less then 7-9 weeks to raise a bird commercially. Well with in the time frame of the 4th quarter, from egg to plate.

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#21
In reply to #15

Re: And On the 47th Day, This Chicken Went to Market

10/20/2006 4:58 PM

First off, I'm not making an assumption. In the opening post of the thread I simply asked is this true? Secondly, your comment about turkey is all well and good, but it's not directly useful. If you look at the actuals for 2005, more turkeys were "produced" in the 2nd q than the 4th...which means you've made or at least accepted some incorrect assumptions.

Again, the document only demonstrates the period of production, and only for one real year (2005). Everything else is simply a forecast. There's simply not enough data for a justification, even if it proved your thesis, which it doesn't.

I'm willing to conceed that the answer to my question is "no", but I'd like to see some evidence, just as I need some real evidence before I'll submit to it being "yes".

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: And On the 47th Day, This Chicken Went to Market

10/20/2006 11:10 PM

"Secondly, your comment about turkey is all well and good, but it's not directly useful. If you look at the actuals for 2005, more turkeys were "produced" in the 2nd q than the 4th...which means you've made or at least accepted some incorrect assumptions."

I think you need to recheck the chart - 2nd Quarter is 1,397 - 4th Quarter is 1,405

Thesis? This is far from it - But if you have some numbers, graphs or charts you'd like to contribute please feel free to do so. I'm glad the one I submitted has served as a great point of discussion.

All this wing talk was making me hungry - good thing I had few free ones at happy hour. I suggest everyone else does the same.

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#14

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/20/2006 11:57 AM

I enjoy the chicken wings occasionally, but prefer the boneless chicken wings. Do you think the boneless chicken wing, which is the chicken breast, market is making legs and thighs cheaper? I have noticed at the local market that wings are usually higher priced that the breast and legs and thighs are cheaper than the breasts. I have my own recipe for hot wings, and prefer to use the breast instead of the wings. If the market catches on and both wings and breasts price go up, then I will switch to "hot legs" or "hot thighs". Imagine announcing that to your guests.

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#16
In reply to #14

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/20/2006 4:00 PM

Quote "the boneless chicken wing, which is the chicken breast". I'm confused. Have we genetically engineered chickens with boneless wings where their breasts should be?

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/20/2006 4:10 PM

No. The boneless chicken wing is actually prepared by cutting the chicken breast into pieces about the size of a drumette. It is just a piece of chicken breast fried and dipped in sauce, not really a wing at all. I suppose the name is confusing, it is just a name recognition (association) thing here is the US. They sure are good.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/20/2006 4:24 PM

Thanks for the clarification. We call them "dippers" or "dunkers" or "succulent pieces in crunchy crumb" etc., or (in higher class establishments) "goujons"!

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/20/2006 4:46 PM

It's 930pm GMT on a Friday night in October. Shouldn't you be in a pub watching the Premier League and munching on dunkers? (or, at least, fish and chips?)

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/20/2006 4:57 PM

I got back from the pub about an hour ago with my 9-year-old daughter (stays with me 50/50).

The wings (tossed in 75% "Tex's Original Fried Chicken Coating" and 25% "Spicy Snack Sprinkle" (West meets East)) are in the oven, smelling good. My rum & coffee is going down well. My can of John Smith's is warming up nicely.

Hope you're having a good time, to!

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#23

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

10/26/2006 2:09 PM

Yes, but what about pork rinds and ribs? Does the launch of the college football season lead to cheaper pork? Or do pulled pork sandwiches make up the difference? (I need to go get lunch)

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#24

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

01/10/2007 9:32 AM

In response to question 2, gasoline was at first, a waste product.

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#25

Re: Is Chicken Cheaper During Football Season?

01/17/2007 12:28 AM

1. Cheap chicken during football season is just another way for the man to get the dollars out of your pocket and into his. The appearance of a good deal is a sure-fire way to do this.

2. For a while, in my early college years, I think I was driving half of the hog market simply by buying hamhocks. Great for soups that last forever (split pea soup is my specialty) and great for gnawing on afterward as well. Unfortunately for some reason they became more expensive and I went back to eating ramen noodles - the other food and delicious seasoning I could afford.

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