Chicken Shortage Is Nothing to Cluck About

America is running low on poultry wings and breast meat for sandwiches.

May 05, 2021

BBQ Chicken Wing with Sauce

WASHINGTON—If you haven’t heard, there is a shortage of chicken. Americans have developed an insatiable appetite for chicken wings and fried chicken sandwiches—and it’s impacting the poultry supply train, the Washington Post reports. Fueling the shortage are QSRs battling it out for supremacy in the new chicken sandwich arena, including new entries from McDonald’s and KFC.

“Demand for the new sandwich has been so strong that, coupled with general tightening in domestic chicken supply, our main challenge has been keeping up with that demand,” said David Gibbs, CEO of Yum! Brands, which owns KFC.

This week, Charles R. Morrison, chairman and CEO of Wingstop, weighed in with the news that “suppliers are struggling, just as many in our industry are, to hire people to process chicken, thus placing unexpected pressure on the amount of birds that can be processed and negatively affecting supply of all parts of the chicken in the U.S., not just wings.”

The popularity of chicken has been soaring for years in the United States. Analysts and experts point to several factors behind the looming deficit: The coronavirus pandemic that has disrupted markets and supply chains while boosting demand for comfort food like chicken, more competition, rollercoaster feed prices and devastating winter storms that closed chicken processing plants in the South.

The farmyard bird will continue to be in high demand, according to various studies, including one study from TOP that found fried chicken chains have had a better year during the pandemic than other QSRs. A North Carolina industry official forecasted that the chicken crunch will be even more apparent as the grilling season comes into full swing. “What we need,” he said, “is a four-winged chicken.”

Convenience stores are joining the battle for the hearts of chicken sandwich lovers, too. The May issue of NACS Magazine shares how convenience retailers are pecking it out with QSRs in “Chicken Sandwich Wars.”

Not a NACS Magazine or NACS Daily subscriber? Subscribe to NACS Magazine in a print and/or digital format to read the latest insights from industry thought leaders each month. Subscribe to NACS Daily to receive a roundup of industry news and trends in your inbox each weekday. Subscriptions to NACS Magazine and NACS Daily are complimentary for readers in the convenience retailing industry—you just need to sign up!