Fast Food Is Paying Paltry Prices for Poultry

Poultry prices are going down. Should we all be eating chicken next year?

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Fried chicken sandwich in box
Photo: Lillian Stone

When it comes to food costs, there’s nothing more painful than seeing your favorite protein almost double in price at the supermarket. In August, Forbes reported that chicken prices have risen 13% since last year, compared to a 9% increase in consumer prices in general.

Luckily for poultry lovers, the trend is changing. According to The Wall Street Journal, chicken prices have been down 70% since June. Fast food and fast casual chains are now capitalizing on this silver lining by increasing their offerings.

“Promotions of chicken value meal deals were up 160% in the three months ended September compared with the same period last year,” WSJ added. Those meal deals were wholeheartedly embraced by the public.

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Let’s take a look at why chicken prices have fallen in recent weeks.

Why chicken breast prices are dropping

In 2021, a number of restaurants began increasing their menu prices to offset the expected higher costs due to impending inflation. Wingstop, a chain known for wings, tenders, and all things chicken, began promoting dark meat for its lower cost while Chipotle and McDonald’s quietly increased their menu prices by 4% and 8%, respectively.

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Then at the beginning of 2022, large chicken suppliers such as Tyson and Allen Harim Foods LLC began ramping up production, having estimated higher than average demand. Additionally, Tyson also worked to improve its plants and hatcheries, in part by replacing underperforming roosters.

Fast food chains suddenly began seeing their overall food costs drop, and analysts expect chicken prices to fall even further next year. Wingstop, for example, saw its wing costs “decreased by 42.7% in the first three months ended Sept. 24,” according to WSJ, and “a 19% reduction in bone-in wing prices,” according to Restaurant Dive.

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How fast food chains are capitalizing on chicken

As ever, the more you bundle, the more you save. A chicken combo meal at a Wingstop in my hometown of Portland, Oregon costs $7.99, a price that includes a 20-oz. drink and fries, while a similar chicken sandwich combo at a nearby Popeyes is only $6.99. Everyone wants us to buy their chicken.

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On the heels of its popular chicken sandwich launch, Wingstop recently added a new variety to the lineup for a limited time: the Carolina Gold BBQ Chicken Sandwich, available starting December 5 (with a BOGO Wingstop Chicken Sandwich promotion available on Uber Eats December 6-19). McDonald’s is taking advantage of these poultry prices, too: from December 5-16, customers will be offered special deals on chicken items via McDonald’s app, including BOGO promotions.

With all these promotions popping up, we might just be hurtling toward the reemergence of the chicken sandwich wars, but we certainly hope not.