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US dodges Super Bowl chicken-wing shortage

Douglas 'Obi WIng' Petock stuffs his mouth at Wing Bowl 17, a buffalo wings food-eating contest, on January 30, 2009
Douglas "Obi WIng" Petock stuffs his mouth at Wing Bowl 17, a buffalo wings food-eating contest, on January 30, 2009, in Philadelphia. Americans will wolf down 1.23 billion chicken wings over this Super Bowl weekend, or nearly four wings for each and ever

Americans will wolf down 1.23 billion chicken wings this Super Bowl weekend, or nearly four wings for each and every US citizen, the National Chicken Council estimates.

But fans of American football and the savory snack -- served baked, fried or grilled, most often with ranch or barbecue sauce -- can rest assured: there is no looming shortage of their beloved chicken wings.

"There is sufficient frozen poultry in storage," council spokesman Tom Super told AFP in an email, citing the latest data from the US Department of Agriculture.

"So no, there will be no wing shortage," he said. "They might be a little more expensive, but there is and will be plenty to go around."

Unprepared wings are retailing in Washington supermarkets this week for about $2.49 per pound.

Contributing to a rise in prices, there has been a one percent dip in chicken production in the past year, and corn and feed prices are at record highs.

"The Super Bowl is the second biggest eating holiday of the year, after Thanksgiving," noted Charlie Morrison, president of Wingstop, a nationwide chain of more than 550 wings-dedicated franchise restaurants.

"With the growing demand for wings, we are gearing up for this to be our biggest year yet," with more than six million wings sold, up 15 percent on last year, he said in a statement.

The National Restaurant Association estimates 48 million Americans will either take out or call in food for Sunday's big game, with 63 percent naming chicken wings as their "must-have" finger food.

"When it comes to favorite game-watching foods, dips, chicken wings and pizza top the list," the restaurant group's senior vice president Hudson Riehle said in a statement.

He added that, judging from market research, "about two out of five individuals who plan to watch the big game say that healthful food items are a must on their table that day."

That said, 18 percent of respondents to a online survey for CouponCabin.com identified "the dieter -- the one counting calories on one of the most celebrated days of junk food" as the most undesirable Super Bowl companion.

Chicken wings are so popular among Americans that they typically cost more in US supermarkets than they do in Europe, despite being less meaty than chicken legs -- also known as "drumsticks" -- or breasts.

"I think we like the flavor of the meat combined with the fat and the skin" and served up in so many ways, Super said. "And they do so well in bars because the spicy and salty nature of wings pair perfectly with beer."

The season-closing Super Bowl championship, taking place this year in New Orleans, Louisiana, pits the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers. Their hometowns are famous for crabcakes and Asian cuisine, respectively.

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