In the early 1990s the Bills weren’t the only Buffalo institution to gain national notoriety. Until then, Buffalo wing existed only as a regional delicacy.
Then McDonald’s added Mighty Wings, to the menu in 1990, and KFC experimented with wings of their own in 1991, but with only mixed results. It wasn’t until 1994 that chicken wings found a home: Domino’s began a national advertising campaign featuring a flying buffalo to promote adding wings to pizza orders.
“When Domino’s featured the ad with the flying buffalo, it put the chicken wing in a new stratosphere, and it has never looked back,” says Richard Lobb, spokesperson for the National Chicken Council in Washington.
Today, many pizzeria owners find that wings are a natural fit on their menus.
“Wings, pizza and beer are the perfect combination, really,” said Corey Balzer owner of American Pie Pizza Company (americanpiepizzaco.com), with 12 locations in the Central Florida. “It’s easy food to eat at events like a Super Bowl party because it can be picked up and enjoyed by the masses.”
Indeed the National Chicken Council estimated that more than 1.25 billion wings were consumed during Super Bowl weekend in 2010–but that weekend accounts for less than 10% of the 13 billion chicken wings sold annually.
However, there is a downside to this popularity: the overwhelming demand for chicken wings has caused chicken wing prices to fluctuate more than a roller coaster at Six Flags, and the peak always comes just before the big game. In 2009 Sam Musolino, owner of Sammy’s Pizzeria in Niagara Falls, New York made headlines across the country for trying to lead a chicken wing boycott. Musolino told local and national news affiliates the 40-pound box of wings he normally buys for $46 jumps to $85 before Super Sunday. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average wholesale price of wings in 2009 was $1.47 per pound, up 38% from 2008 (over the same period of time, the average price for a boiler chicken went down 2.6%). The trend has continued into 2010, with chicken wing prices fluctuating between $1.75 to $1.65 per pound, while boneless chicken breast have held steady at $1.56 per pound.