Demand for the ultimate game-day food usually spikes around major sporting events like the Super Bowl. But with the NCAA March Madness tournament canceled and restaurants shuttered to slow the rate of COVID-19 infection, there’s a massive surplus of chicken wings in the United States.
“The basketball, it’s for real,” Erik Oosterwijk, president of Fells Point Wholesale Meats in Baltimore, told The Washington Post. “The basketball didn’t happen. People are not going to restaurants and there’s a lot of excess.”
Just before the annual NCAA Tourney was canceled on March 12, poultry farmers sold over 1.24 million pounds of wings. By last week, sales had dropped to 433,000 pound.
“Those are millions of pounds of wings that people don’t eat,” Oosterwijk said. “And if [coronavirus] happened in January and February, it would have been the Super Bowl that got hit. There’s no doubt there’s a lot of food out there today.”
Prices have also significantly dropped — from nearly $2 per pound during the Super Bowl to nearly $1 per pound, the cheapest in more than nine years.
Wing producers are trying to slow the surplus by closing processing and packaging plants, restricting the number of eggs allowed to hatch and limiting chickens’ food so they grow at a slower rate.
Suppliers are also trying to divert the wings from restaurants to grocers and freeze some of the food until the market bounces back. But at this point, it’s still not clear when the sports world will get back to normal.