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SALT LAKE CITY — Hot wings, celery, carrots and ranch (bleu cheese, if you're a purist). These Super Bowl delicacies are staples of the game-day gastronomic repertoire of millions across the globe. But are there enough wings to go around?
In the week heading up to Super Bowl Sunday, people around the country have been worried about the potential of a chicken wing shortage after a report from the National Chicken Council stated that fewer chickens were raised in 2012. Two Atlanta men have even attempted to steal $65,000 in wings.
"Chicken companies produced about one percent fewer birds last year, due in large part to record high corn and feed prices," said NCC economist Bill Roenigk.
Higher corn prices have limited the supply. On Super Bowl Sunday alone in 2012, some 1.24 billion wings were consumed. That number is expected to decrease to about 1.23 billion this year.
"Corn makes up more than two-thirds of chicken feed and corn prices hit an all-time high in 2012, due to two reasons: last summer's drought and pressure from a federal government requirement that mandates 40 percent of our corn crop be turned into fuel in the form of ethanol," Roenigk said. "Simply put, less corn equals higher feed costs, which means fewer birds produced."
Nevertheless, this does not mean there will be a shortage. Economists point out that as the price goes up, the consumption rate will go down. So fewer people will be buying wings in the first place.
"Any time when you see meat products pull back on production, you tend to get these waves of stories: 'Oh, we're going to run out,' " Chad Hart, an associate professor of economics at Iowa State University, told U.S. News and World Report. "No, we won't, but you will pay more for it."
Indeed, the price of wings will be higher than ever before according to the NCC report, at about $2.11 per pound.
A U.K.-based advocacy group also caused a stir last year when they predicted a bacon shortage, again related to the higher price of corn feed. That shortage never materialized, though prices did rise somewhat.
The fact that there will be no shortage didn't stop two men in Atlanta from allegedly stealing $65,000 in wings, however. Police have said Dewayne Patterson and Renaldo Jackson, employees of Nordic Distribution, loaded a retail truck full of the wings and drove off. Management later recognized the two employees and they were arrested.
It's not clear whether the theft was spurred by the perceived shortage.