HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) —We’ve seen shortages of several items during the pandemic. Well, now restaurants are saying that chicken wings are becoming more scarce.
Although the chicken wing shortage has not reached the panic buying levels seen with toilet paper early on in the pandemic, supply has gotten harder to find for restaurants.
Fewer workers at chicken processing plants during the pandemic have caused fewer chicken wings to be available now.
Wing restaurants are having a tough time consistently finding adequate supply.
“It’s hard running a business when you don’t know exactly what product you’re going to be getting in,” said Bobby Saenz, the CEO of Wing Barn, a Rio Grande Valley-based wing chain.
In Texas, business have been open to 100% capacity for months, and the demand for popular products like chicken wings have returned to normal.
Demand has normalized, but supply is still lagging behind and hasn’t had the time to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels.
“You got a lot of demand with the sports and the NBA playoffs and things like that happening right now, and then a short supply, so simple economics, prices are definitely rising,” said Saenz.
Ventura Garcia, an assistant manager for Toriz Wings in Harlingen, told KVEO that in normal years the price of wings would usually spike in the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, before returning to their normal prices.
This year, however, prices have only gone up from their usual $80-$90 range.
“Now, we’re paying almost $170, $165 a box for the same amount, but maybe not as great a quality as before,” said Garcia.
Chicken wing restaurants all over the valley are struggling to get their usual orders filled. Saenz said that Wing Barn doesn’t always get the full shipment of wings they order.
“Our normal suppliers have had a tough time getting wings so when we order 20 cases or 30 cases per store, we may be getting 10 or 15 cases, and we just don’t know until the day of delivery,” said Saenz.
Uncertainty with supply, along with the increased prices means some businesses have had to change policies.
Garcia said that Toriz Wings would sometimes have to wait a few days to get their order filled, so they would have to try and stretch their supply for longer by stopping bulk orders. Higher prices for wings mean they can’t keep offering their usual discounts.
“Usually we have happy hour wings, where we would put our wings at a discounted price, but we haven’t been able to do that because we would be taking a lot of loss,” said Garcia.
Both Garcia and Saenz said they expect the availability of chicken wings to return to normal as the year progresses.