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Lock-out Freakonomics: Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings
Chicken Wings

Everyone has heard some number for how much money the NFL makes annually. The most common one is nine billion dollars taken in in total revenue per season. Of course, one must remember that that nine billion dollars is only related directly to the prices of ticket sales, TV air time, advertising, etc. There are some industries that are uniquely tied to football that will suffer as a result of the work stoppage. A great example of one of those affected industries is the Chicken industry. Who'da thunk it?

That's right, chicken companies are the real losers in the NFL lockout, because one of their major products will see a huge drop off in usefulness. Think when people eat chicken wings. Generally, wings are messy and saucy. They are finger food, but impolite to eat when with friends during any kind of formal meal, and individually are not large enough to make a meal without consuming a lot of them continuously. These factors often make chicken wings in-ideal. They do, however, make wings a really excellent food to eat during a football game. They are munchable one at a time during the game, and allow the viewer to relax from the level of formality usually required in human interactions.


Yes, chicken wings are among the best football game foods, but what happens if there's no football? Well, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price of chicken has crashed from $1.74 per pound wholesale last year to the current price of $0.95 due to a saturation of the market with chickens. Last year, the demand for wings came faster than most chicken companies could handle, but without football, sales will suffer, causing an even greater surplus of crispy, saucy chicken products. Restaurants do most of their chicken wing sales during Sundays in the Fall. Can you figure out why? Football fans show up to sports bars in droves on sundays, order a bunch of wings and watch sports. Eating wings while watching football is one of the most time-honored forms of male bonding as well, and the lack of football would directly inform the sales of wings. So, now the question is: What can the chicken industry do to solve the problem?

Peter Baumann is not in any way related to the chicken industry, but he may have developed an answer. According to TIME magazine, Baumann, a 32-year old salesman, found freak chicks with stubby wings or, in some cases, found chicks that were entirely wingless. He bred them as a hobby, and now has a hatchery with over 400 WINGLESS Chickens. What's more, his chicken population is now 95% wingless due to generations of breeding. If the drop off is sharp enough in wing consumption, larger companies might be tempted to breed and grow their own wingless chickens. That way, they can sell the breasts and thighs, and not have to worry about having an excess of wings.

This is shocking news. The world, and especially the Sunday NFL experience, would be drastically different if wingless chickens become the standard. The hamburger market would likely absorb the extra expenditures, but the NFL lockout could have long-term ramifications on the market value of chickens, and the price of their wings. Most importantly, would watching football without wings ever be as good as watching the game with wings? That remains to be seen.