Coronavirus drives chicken wing shortage ahead of Super Bowl

If you ever make it to Francar’s Buffalo Wings in Macon, you’ll learn Carl Fambro is really into chicken wings… and chicken wing sauces.

“Well, we keep like 35, 36 on the menu,” Fambro said a little before lunch one day this week. “But then I’ve got another 10 in my recipe book.”

It’s all part of the experimenting and tinkering Fambro has always done at Francar’s. Today he’s experimenting in ways to spice up things like chicken tenders and boneless wings in lieu of his specialty. That’s because Fambro is having a hard time laying hands on a chicken wing — just ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.

Fambro said Super Bowl Sunday is huge for him, just as it is for just about any other wing place in the country.

“We can sell anywhere from 10 to 25 cases of wings.” Fambro said. “In one day.”

With each case containing about 350 wings, that’s something like 6,000 wings out of his door. But not this year. This year, Fambro can only get half that many wings delivered to his restaurant over the course of any given week because, according to the DC based National Chicken Council, there is a national chicken wing shortage.

Why? First, many of the workers in chicken processing plants have been sick with COVID. That along with pandemic-driven demand from housebound wing lovers (many of whom have learned how to order delivery) have laid waste to wing stockpiles.

The confluence means very few wings heading into the Super Bowl of chicken wing consumption.

Prices are also at a record high, even for this time of year, when the Super Bowl pushes them up anyway.

“It went up to $1.21 a pound,” Fambro said. That’s locally. Nationally the average price is closer to $2.10 a pound, about 35% more expensive than this time last year.

“And that’s almost too much to make a profit,” Fambro said.

So Fambro is experimenting with the boneless wings and the chicken tenders. He really hopes people want them.

“Otherwise, I’ll sit at home and watch the game like everybody else,” he said.

Which, as nice as that may sound, is not something Carl Fambro says he can really afford to do.

This story comes to The Georgia Sun through a reporting partnership with GA Today, a non-profit newsroom focused on reporting in Georgia.

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