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Published: Friday, 1/30/2009

Cost isn't chicken feed, but wings will be plentiful

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Associated Press Drew Cerza, founder of the annual Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, doesn't have to worry that he will have to forgo chicken wings to snack on during Sunday's Super Bowl. The popular national snack might cost a bit more, but there is plenty to go around, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council said. Associated Press Drew Cerza, founder of the annual Buffalo Wing Festival in Buffalo, doesn't have to worry that he will have to forgo chicken wings to snack on during Sunday's Super Bowl. The popular national snack might cost a bit more, but there is plenty to go around, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council said.
DON HEUPEL / AP Enlarge

BUFFALO - Buffalo's football team won't have a place in this year's Super Bowl hoopla, but don't worry, its chicken wings will.

Amid unnerving media reports that spread from here to New York City and even Seattle about a potential shortage of the Buffalo-born appetizer heading into the big game, authorities say yes, production is down and yes, prices are up.

"But there's plenty of wings," assured Richard Lobb, spokesman for the National Chicken Council in Washington.

For those scoring at home, that will mean about 1 billion wings scarfed down over the Super Bowl weekend.

In the last week or so, some fretted that the spicy snack would be scarce for a number of reasons: the highest wholesale and retail prices in recent memory; an industrywide, economy-driven drop in production of 5 to 6 percent; a bankruptcy filing from major Texas producer Pilgrim's Pride, though it still is in business, and a push to sell wings by restaurant chains like Pizza Hut and KFC.

Taken together, connoisseurs worried demand would outstrip supply.

And wings were missing for a day from the kitchen of Sam Musolino, a Niagara Falls restaurateur. He refused to serve wings at Sammy's Pizzeria Monday to protest the annual price hikes just in time for the big football weekend.

"They're basically just taking advantage of the pizzerias," said Mr. Musolino, who said he was paying $46 for a 40-pound box of wings before the price jumped to $78 for the same case.

Mr. Lobb said the price is up because feed prices have skyrocketed. Chicken producers have had to cut production as consumers have cut spending at casual dining restaurants that favor chicken dishes, leaving a glut of chicken on the market.

Now that supply is smaller and prices are up, Mr. Musolino said he can't pass along the temporary spike to customers - not that they'd pay anyway. "Everyone's so tapped out these days, there's no way you can raise the prices."



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