Super Bowl LVII: Avian flu doesn’t dampen chicken availability as indulgence dominates
10 Feb 2023 --- As Super Bowl 2023 approaches, football fans are gearing up for a weekend of heavy snacking as they watch the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Kansas City Chiefs. Ever-popular chicken wings are set to see record consumption levels, with the recent avian flu epidemic doing little to dampen appetites for the traditional football snack.
According to Tom Super, senior VP of communications of the US National Chicken Council (NCC), the chicken wing market is flying high.
Americans are projected to consume a record 1.45 billion chicken wings this weekend, up from 1.42 billion in 2021 and 1.4 billion in 2020. (Meanwhile, plant-based chicken wing sales are set to match the number of last year at 160 million, according to estimates by Compassion in World Farming.)
The market for wings for the Super Bowl is accelerating this year even amid the devastating avian flu – with 58.37 million birds culled in the country, according to US health authorities.
The body predicts yearly chicken consumption in the US will reach a historic high of 102.4 pounds (46.45 kg) per capita throughout 2023, with US consumers eating almost double the amount of chicken compared to 40 years ago.
The uptick in consumption is explained due to “more favorable prices and more people getting back to normal and gathering for the big game, whether at home or a bar or restaurant,” underscores Super.
Chicken market dips
However, chicken prices are trending down on reduced exports and moderate demand.
This week there are 168.9 million broilers available in the US, with 158.6 predicted to be slaughtered, 9.9 million less than estimated available. The US Department of Agriculture says there is a “strong supply” for chicken in its January 2023 poultry outlook, primarily due to weakened exports.
Exports of broilers were down 1% in 2022 and are expected to edge up only 1.5% this year, while production is set to grow.
One of the coldest markets is China, where chicken exports were down 18% in 2022 (until November), and the trend of weakened exports to China is expected to continue during the year.
Retail prices for chicken wings peaked just after the March 2022 Super Bowl at US$4.29 per pound. A year later, prices have come down to US$2.62 per pound – the price as of January 13. Wholesale prices have steadily declined since May 2021, with prices declining 72.62% from US$3.25 per pound to just US$0.89 per pound in December 2022.
Last year’s game saw a similar concern around wing shortage, although the “pandemic-proof” product saw ample supply meet massive demand.
Avian flu’s deadly impact in the UK caused concern for Americans as Thanksgiving approached, with many watching closely as turkey prices rose as the size of birds shrank.
Spike in social drinking
This year’s Super Bowl LVII comes as drinking habits change, especially among young consumers. However, as one of the most significant sporting events of the annual calendar, the Super Bowl is synonymous with alcohol, mostly beer.
However, with rising beer prices and greater demand for low or zero-alcohol offerings, this year’s Super Bowl will also be the first of many to highlight alternatives to traditional beers.
Heineken is taking advantage of both AB InBev ending its exclusive 30-year sponsorship of the event and the rising market for low-alcohol offerings by screening a commercial specifically targeting teetotallers with a spot focusing on their zero-alcohol offering Heineken 0.0%.
Nonetheless, traditional alcohol will dominate the US$7 million per 3-second Super Bowl commercial slots, with Budweiser, Crown Royal, Busch Light and Rémy Martin hoping to draw in some of the 100 million consumers who tune in to watch the event.
By Marc Cervera and James Davies
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