Sporting events and chicken wings go a bit more hand-in-hand than we realized. Sales of the poultry product are the highest at two points during the year: the Super Bowl and the NCAA tournament.

While the Super Bowl went as planned, the NCAA tournament was canceled in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That has resulted in a huge surplus of wings in the U.S.

“The basketball, it’s for real,” Erik Oosterwijk, president of Fells Point Wholesale Meats in Baltimore, told the Washington Post. “The basketball didn’t happen. People are not going to restaurants and there’s a lot of excess.” 

The outlet reports that wings are now being sold for a little more than $1 a pound, approximately half of how much they cost around the Super Bowl. Almost 1.25 million pounds of wings were sold the week that the tournament was supposed to begin in March. This week, only 433,000 pounds were sold.

“Those are millions of pounds of wings that people don’t eat,” Oosterwijk told The Post. “And if [coronavirus] happened in January and February, it would have been the Super Bowl that got hit. There’s no doubt there’s a lot of food out there today.” 

Wing establishments like Buffalo Wild Wings, Hooters, and Wingstop are either closed or only restricted to takeout, which is only adding to the surplus. “The major wing chains that should be hot this time of year are closed,” Will Sawyer, an animal protein economist at CoBank, told the outlet. “The food service side of things, they probably still have wings they bought weeks ago getting ready for March Madness and for people to come watch the games, but they’re not selling them.”

Wing-producers have been investigating different methods to manage the surplus, including shuttering processing and packaging plants, limiting the number of eggs that can hatch, and reducing chickens’ food so they grow more slowly. Some suppliers have been freezing wings to sell when the market recovers, and trying to redirect food to grocers instead of restaurants.

The 2020 NCAA men's and women's championship tournaments were canceled in March. The news arrived just after it was announced that fan attendance at both tournaments would be prohibited.

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