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Growth Energy Cries 'Foul' on Chicken Council

Chicken council says record corn prices will limit wing availability this Super Bowl Sunday; Growth Energy calls Chicken Council's claims "unsportsmanlike conduct."

Published on: Jan 25, 2013

"Holding," "offsides" or "pass interference" could be a referee's call during a football game, but ethanol group Growth Energy is using the terms to fight back against the National Chicken Council's claims that the RFS has affected the Super Bowl's staple food – chicken wings.

The NCC this week released consumption and availability data on chicken wings, pointing to the renewable fuels standard as a possible cause for fewer wings.

"Chicken companies produced about 1% fewer birds last year, due in large part to record high corn and feed prices," Bill Roenigk, NCC economist said.  "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% of our corn crop be turned into fuel in the form of ethanol.  Simply put, less corn equals higher feed costs, which means fewer birds produced."

Chicken council says record corn prices will limit wing availability this Super Bowl Sunday; Growth Energy calls Chicken Councils claims "unsportsmanlike conduct."
Chicken council says record corn prices will limit wing availability this Super Bowl Sunday; Growth Energy calls Chicken Council's claims "unsportsmanlike conduct."

Growth Energy fired back, calling NCC comments "roughing the facts."

"Forty percent of the corn crop is not used for biofuel production, that is a complete fabrication," Growth Energy said in a press statement. "The reality is that only a net of 17% of the corn crop is used for renewable fuel production, as the production of biofuels has a co-product, distillers grains."

The group said "trying to blame the ethanol industry for increased commodity costs" could be classified as a "personal foul."

"The true culprit is Mother Nature and there is no tool available to alter the unpredictable weather," Growth Energy said.

Though the ethanol group had a bone to pick with NCC's comments on corn, ethanol production wasn't all the Chicken Council had to talk about. The group released also its "2013 Wing Report"—an update on the preferences and consumption patterns of U.S. chicken wing consumers.

Some of the highlights of the NCC report include:

Almost six in 10 (57%) U.S. adults who eat chicken wings said they typically like to eat their wings with ranch dressing, according to a new National Chicken Council poll conducted by Harris Interactive. Only about three in 10 (35%) prefer bleu cheese dressing.

-Nearly four in five U.S. adults (79%) eat chicken wings and that consumption does not vary significantly by region or gender.  Women (77%) are just as likely as men (82%) to eat wings.

-The vast majority of wings, especially those destined for restaurants, are disjointed, with the third joint (the thin part known as the flapper) being exported to Asian countries and the meatier first and second joints being sold domestically.  The wing is usually split into two parts – or portions or segments – known as the "drumette" and the mid-section or "flat" and sold to restaurants or retail grocery outlets. 

-Wholesale wings are currently at about $2.11 a pound (Northeast), the highest on record at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, up 22 cents or 12% from a year earlier. Wing prices always go up in the fourth quarter of the year as restaurants stock up for the Super Bowl and prices usually peak in January during the run-up to the big game.  But many analysts expect that demand will hold steady even after the NFL season ends.

-According to Nielsen Perishables Group FreshFacts data, both fresh and prepared wings totaled $1.6 billion in sales for the 52 weeks ending November 24, 2012, an increase of 5.4% compared to a year earlier. Wing sales at grocery stores and supermarkets spike dramatically the week of the Super Bowl, but the data show that consumers also stock up the week before, too.

-Although America's taste for chicken wings is no hotter than during Super Bowl weekend, the National Chicken Council estimates that overall in 2013 more than 13.25 billion chicken wings, about three billion pounds, will be marketed as wings.

-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 sixties and seventies, but in the eighties U.S. consumers 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.