Ah, the humble chicken wing. We Americans love wings so much that there's even a holiday devoted to them: National Chicken Wing Day, held every year on July 29.
Unfortunately, this year it might be tough to get chicken wings due to a nationwide wing shortage, leading to low availability and raised wing prices in some areas.
Sarasota butchers, though, don't seem worried.
Charles Haney from Butcher’s Mark explains that the shortage is mostly because of labor issues with larger processing plants. He explains that a lot of larger restaurant and grocery chains rely on national meat-cutting houses—like Tyson, Perdue, and other large industrial meat-processing facilities—and that it’s these plants that are having the issues.
“It’s a shortage of labor,” Haney says. “During Covid, a lot of them were hit with the virus and shut down for weeks at a time. National brands rely on national contracts and large volume, which rely on those meat-processing plants.”
Haney says that smaller chains aren't beholden to this middle man, and instead get their products from a different distributor or straight from the source, like a farm. “There’s no shortage of chickens," he says. "This hasn’t affected my business at all.”
However, he does acknowledge the popularity of wings over other parts of the chicken, which contributes to the chicken wing issues, too. “Chicken wings are a lot more popular than the thigh," he says.
Rob Nicholson, a butcher at Chop Shop, also says he has been unaffected by the wing shortage, but for different reasons. Like Haney, he acknowledges that the problem comes from the larger distributors—but instead of labor, he says that the wing shortage is actually “propaganda” to create more demand for the bird.
“There is no chicken wing shortage. There was never a shortage from the distributors,” says Nicholson. “They don’t make wingless chickens. If they don’t make wingless chickens, how are there shortages of wings?”
Nicholson also agrees that shopping small is the way to go if you want to celebrate National Chicken Wing Day.
“If you go into any independently owned grocery store, you’re gonna see more than enough chicken wings,” he says.
Good luck to anyone who wants to celebrate National Chicken Wing Day. You should be able to find wings in Sarasota, but if you can’t, Haney says that marinated chicken thighs are also delicious—maybe even better than the wings.