WASHINGTON D.C.: Chicken prices have soared sharply in the U.S. this year, fueled by supply shortages and a growing appetite for chicken among restaurants, which has left producers scrambling to raise production, even as labor remains scarce.
Since the start of this year, chicken breast prices have more than doubled in the U.S., while wing prices have climbed to record levels, according to market-research firm Urner Barry, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Chris Testa, president of supermarket distributor United Natural Foods, has partly attributed this rise in prices to higher demand from restaurants.
The chicken sandwich wars of recent years have led to several fast-food chains, such as McDonald's, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, and Wendy's, rolling out newer chicken offerings, with more chains, including Burger King, unveiling plans to add to their sandwich menus in the next few months.
But lately, some restaurant chains, including KFC, Wingstop, and Buffalo Wild Wings, have begun running out of or limiting sales of tenders, filets, and wings.
Meanwhile, independent eateries and bars have said there has been no supply of wings for weeks.
"The overall supply is constrained. That affects every part of the bird," Wingstop chief executive Charlie Morrison said earlier this week, adding that the company has been speaking to suppliers who are struggling to increase production amid a labor shortage, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Last month, KFC, which is owned by Yum Brands, had asked U.S. restaurant owners to stop selling chicken tenders and Nashville Hot chicken items from online menus due to supply constraints.
The shortage has also led to the company restricting sales of its highly popular KFC Chicken Sandwich, launched earlier this year, WSJ reported.
"Demand for wings is more than we can currently fill," said Mike Cockrell, chief financial officer for Sanderson, which supplies chicken to fast-food chains, including Buffalo Wild Wings and TGI Fridays.
Fabio Sandri, the chief executive of Pilgrim's Pride, the second-largest U.S. chicken company by sales, said a shortage of workers has affected product lineup.
The company, however, expects demand for chicken to remain strong, he said.