The COVID-19 pandemic is causing more trouble for family-owned restaurants already struggling financially, but now have to contend with a nationwide chicken shortage as demand for the product grows.
With Americans turning to comfort foods during the pandemic and ordering more chicken dishes and sandwiches from area restaurants during stay-at-home mandates, poultry producers have been struggling to keep pace.
The poultry producers were also stretched extra thin when many meat processing plants were forced to close at the beginning of the pandemic due to COVID-19 outbreaks, while some chicken farms were also forced to temporarily close due to extreme weather circumstances, which further exacerbated the supply.
According to the National Chicken Council (NCC), there has been a 4 percent drop in broiler production in the first quarter of 2021 compared to last year and a 3 percent decrease in pounds of chicken produced during the quarter.
However, that trend has been reversing in recent weeks, with the NCC reporting an increase in production every week in April.
Tom Super, a spokesperson for NCC, agreed the supply is tight, but did not call it a “chicken shortage,” noting that the cause for the limited supply of late is linked in large part to weather extremes that impacted a wide swath of the poultry producing states in the United States.
“Chicken producers are doing everything they can to overcome the devastating impact of Mother Nature when she inflicted the once-in-a-lifetime winter storm on Texas and nearby states – major chicken-producing regions,” Super said.
“It will take time and effort to eventually replace the impacted hatchery supply flocks in that region, but supply should catch back up to demand soon.”
The chicken shortage has also led to higher prices for restaurants, which has led to a fluctuation in prices on the menu for customers.
“So as high as demand is for wings right now, even small gaps in the supply of wings can cause big fluctuations in price,” Super said. “Keep in mind, too, that this weather event took place in February, right after the biggest event of the year for wings: The Super Bowl.
“Bottom line – demand has been and remains high,” he added. “As chicken production begins to resume back to a more normal pace of output in the coming months, and there is a better supply/demand ratio, the market should ease.”
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