Chicken sandwich wars, labor shortage send poultry prices higher

Companies like KFC, Wingstop and Buffalo Wild Wings are paying extra for poultry due to the scarce amount available, The Wall Street Journal reported

Chicken breast prices have reportedly more than doubled since January, and the price of chicken wings have recently hit record highs.

The uptick in cost is a result of labor shortages that have been seen across industries since the economy began reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic. Chicken suppliers are struggling to get enough workers to keep up with demand, the Journal reported.

Jumbo boneless skinless chicken breasts were just under $1 a pound at the start of 2021 and are currently just over $2 a pound, the Journal cited from the research firm Urner Barry. 

Jumbo wings were just over $1.50 a pound at the start of 2020 and started 2021 around $2 a pound. Now, the price has gone up to around $3 a pound, the research firm found.

Some major establishments say they are running out of or are limiting their sales on tenders, filets and wings. Wingstop CEO Charlie Morrison told the Journal that the company is paying 26 percent more for bone-in chicken wings this year. 

Chain restaurants like Popeyes, McDonald's and Wendy's have recently introduced chicken sandwiches and others are planning on doing so in the coming months, another reason for the uptick in prices. 

Supermarket consumers are also seeing higher prices. In March, boneless chicken breasts were about $3.29 a pound, which was up 3 cents since January and 11 percent higher than a year earlier, the Journal cited from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.