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Chicken Wing Business Was a Big Winner on Super Bowl Sunday in USA

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With the second biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving fast approaching in the United States, there’s no hotter time for chicken wings. According to the National Chicken Council’s (NCC) 2024 Wing Report, Americans likely devoured 1.45 billion wings while watching the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers compete during the Super Bowl LVIII championship game in Las Vegas on February 11.

“Football is great. Wings are great. But they’re even better together,” said Tom Super, the NCC’s senior vice president of communications. “Sure, you can have your chips, your guacamole, your pizza. But when it comes to menus next Sunday, wings rule the roost during the Big Game.”

To help visualize just how many wings that is:
• 45 billion wings is enough for every man, woman and child in the United States to eat four wings each.
• If Kansas City Coach Andy Reid ate 50 wings every day, it would take him 79,452 years to consume all 1.45 billion.
• 45 billion wings is enough to put 693 wings on every seat in all 30 NFL stadiums.
• If laid end-to-end, 1.45 billion wings would stretch one-third of the way to the moon.
• If each wing represented one second moving forward, 1.45 billion would be 46 years from now, or the year 2070.

Buffalo Chicken Wing History

Deep-fried chicken wings have long been a staple of Southern cooking.  But one well-traveled tale of how the concept of cooking wings in peppery hot sauce was born took place in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, when co-owner Teressa Bellissimo cooked leftover wings in hot sauce as a late-night snack for her son and his friends.  The guys liked them so much that the Bellissimos put them on the menu the next day.  Served with celery slices and bleu cheese sauce, “Buffalo Wings” were an instant hit.

Dick Winger, who sold hot sauce to the bar, went on the road with Dominic Bellissimo, the owners’ son, to promote the item and sell hot sauce, and the item gradually caught on with restaurant operators around the country. The concept hit the big time in 1990, when McDonald’s began selling Mighty Wings at some of its restaurants. KFC rolled out Hot Wings a year later, and Domino’s Pizza introduced its own wings in 1994.  They’ve remained hot ever since.  McDonald’s was back in the wing business in 2013, and its Mighty Wings were featured nationwide at most restaurants through the first quarter of 2014.

Chicken Wings and Football

The rise of the chicken wing and its correlation to American football all had to do with timing.

Cooking the whole bird was trendy in the 1960s and 1970s, but in the 1980s, consumers in the USA started preferring boneless-skinless breast meat, and wings became an inexpensive byproduct for chicken producers. Restaurants and bars realized they could charge low prices for the relatively inexpensive protein, and due to the spicy/salty nature of the sauce, they discovered that beer sales would go through the roof when customers ate wings.

At the same time, sports bars with multiple TVs and satellite dishes were becoming more and more common in America thanks to rapidly developing technology; and the most popular sporting event to watch with friends in bars is football.  Wings were easily shareable and affordable, a great “group food” to eat with other people, and are the perfect pairing with a pitcher of beer. And so the pigskin-chicken wing bond was born.

Wing Tips

• Americans are more likely to prefer eating bone-in, traditional wings (53%) than “boneless wings.”
• Two in five (38%) Americans say that the breast is their favorite cut of chicken, but wings (20%) are second.
• While there are a variety of wing sauces to choose from, BBQ (52%), ranch (46%) and buffalo/hot sauce (41%) are the most preferred.
• French fries are by far the preferred side for wings (72%), distantly followed by celery (14%).