CARBONDALE - Once considered a less than desirable part of the chicken; wings have soared in popularity and price in recent years. According the United States Department of Agriculture, the price of wholesale chicken wings increased 39 percent between 2008 and 2009 and overall consumption of poultry has been considerably higher than beef or pork. The price increase seemingly hasn't hurt the popularity for consumers as wings have become a staple on local restaurant menus.
Heath Galster, assistant manager at Show-Me's in Carbondale, said he has seen prices rise dramatically over the past two years, and that affects what they have to charge for wings. Galster said in recent years his restaurant would have specials on 10 wings for $2.50; the same special today costs $4.90.
Stephanie Brooks, manager of Show-Me's in Carbondale, said even with price increases, business is still good.
"Chicken wings are obviously one of our biggest sellers here," Brooks said. "The price increase has affected us a little bit, but our business is still doing very well."
One reason consumers continue to flock to wings, explains Wanki Moon, associate professor of Agribusiness Economics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, could have something to do with the way the chicken industry operates.
"The chicken industry has been very innovative in creating new products and marketing those products," Moon said. "One reason the chicken industry has been able to do this is that it has a vertically integrated system suited to responding to changes in consumer preferences."
Moon said the increased demand for chicken, and subsequent price increase it created, is a direct result of the chicken industries ability to respond to consumers. He said the beef and pork industry has been relatively sluggish responding to consumer preferences and because of this, those industries haven't seen the same increase in demand.
He added that another reason for the success of the chicken industry is tied directly to consumer's increased awareness of diet and health. Moon said marketing chicken as a healthy alternative to beef or pork, coupled with the industries ability to integrate more convenient products into the market have both played roles in increasing demand.
Galster said he remembers when the demand for wings was nonexistent.
"Wings used to be the trashiest part of the chicken," Galster said. "Wings are such a pop-culture food item now, everybody wants to have wings."