The shortage of chicken wings is giving thighs a starring role on restaurant menus

The shortage of chicken wings is giving thighs a starring role on restaurant menus

Chicken thighs are the new wings on a growing number of restaurant menus as food prices continue to climb.

Darker, less desirable meat, which is half the price of wing and breast meat, is making its debut on menus across the country, with vendors reporting double-digit increases in thigh meat sales, according to a report.

Perdue Farms’ boneless thigh meat sales increased 15 percent in 2021, while ground chicken, which is made from darker meat, increased 20 percent, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“That demand has been spectacular,” Mark McKay, president of Perdue fresh poultry, told the Journal.

Some of that demand comes from chains like Wingstop, which introduced “Thighstop” to its virtual menu in June, and the 900-store chain has plans to make thighs an even bigger part of its offerings.

A chicken sandwich is prepared in a restaurant.
Most Americans prefer breast and wings to the darker meat of chicken thighs.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We believe we can make the thighs a centerpiece of the plate element,” CEO Charlie Morrison told investors in November.

Other chains, including Modern Market Eatery and Just Salad and Wing it On, also began selling thighs during the pandemic, as wings became difficult and more expensive to obtain due to labor shortages and the sandwich wars of fast food chicken.

A freezer full of empty chicken wing boxes.
Chicken wings have been sold in restaurants and supermarkets.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Poultry conglomerate Tyson Foods is also seeing a surge in demand for black meat and thighs, which are typically exported to other countries because Americans prefer white meat.

The meatmaker said in August that it is increasing its automation capabilities to debone dark meat products.

A grocery store's freezer display with just a few packets of chicken thighs remaining.
Even during the heyday of panic buying in 2020, chicken thighs weren’t popular.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
A plate of chicken wings in a restaurant.
A Buffalo Wings dish is a more common restaurant offering than chicken thighs.
SOPA / LightRocket Images via Gett

Darker meats give foodservice operations an “alternative to wings and brisket,” Tyson told The Journal.

The cost differential is significant. Boneless, skinless chicken breast has soared to $ 2 a pound from just under $ 1 a pound in late 2020, while thighs cost about 54 cents a pound compared to 26 cents a year ago. , according to market research firm Urner Barry.

A Chick fil A menu board.
More restaurant chains could try dark meat as prices for white meat continue to climb.
SOPA / LightRocket Images via Gett

Still, thighs are not commonly offered in U.S. restaurants, with only 2 percent of menus offering a thigh option, according to the report.

But as food inflation moves toward 2022, with no end in sight, more chains could be preparing new plans to give thighs a starring role.


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