The National Chicken Council (NCC) recently released its annual Chicken Wing Report, projecting Americans’ consumption of the unofficial gameday menu staple—the chicken wing—would hit an all-time high at 1.38 billion wings during Super Bowl LIII weekend, where the New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams to win the Lombardi Trophy. This figure was up 2 percent, or about 27 million wings, from 2018.
How do 1.38 billion chicken wings measure up?
If 1.38 billion wings were laid end to end, they would stretch 28 times from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
They would weigh 6,600 times more than the combined weight of both the Patriots’ and Rams’ entire rosters.
Enough to put 640 wings on every seat in all 31 NFL stadiums.
Enough to circle the Earth three times.
If each wing were one second, 1.38 billion wings would be 44 years.
That’s four wings for every man, woman and child in the United States.
As the saying goes, “I’ll just eat one. Said no one ever.”
“Whether you’re a fan of the left wing or the right wing, there’s no debate—or controversial missed calls—about America’s favorite Super Bowl food,” said National Chicken Council spokesperson Tom Super.
The vast majority of wings, especially those destined for restaurants, are disjointed, with the third joint (the thin part known as the wing tip or flapper) being exported to Asian countries and the meatier first and second joints being sold domestically.
The two segments, or portions, are known as the “drumette” and the “flat,” as opposed to the whole wing. So each chicken produces four wing segments.
Buffalo chicken wing history
Deep-fried chicken wings have long been a staple of Southern cooking. But the concept of cooking wings in peppery hot sauce was born 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—A love story
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, 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.
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.