Restaurants Face Nationwide Chicken Shortage


Tuesday, May 4th 2021, 12:23 pm
By: CBS News


Family-owned restaurants around the U.S. are struggling to keep a steady supply of chicken tenders, wings and breasts on their customers' plates due to a nationwide poultry shortage.

Consumer demand for the bird has surged amid the coronavirus, with Americans turning to comfort foods and buying more chicken sandwiches from fast-food restaurants like KFC, McDonald's and Popeyes. As millions of Americans sat idle during stay-at-home orders last year and ordered chicken meals from local restaurants, poultry producers have been unable to keep pace.

Outbreaks of the coronavirus in meat processing plants early on in the pandemic forced many plants to close, putting further strain on the supply chain. Supplies were further constricted in February, when some chicken farms in Texas had to temporarily shut down because of Winter Storm Uri.

Tom Super of the National Chicken Council stopped short of declaring a national chicken shortage, but acknowledged that wing supplies are tight. 

"Chicken producers are doing everything they can to overcome the devastating impact of Mother Nature, when she inflicted the once-in-a-lifetime winter storm on Texas and nearby states — major chicken-producing regions," Super said last week. "It will take time and effort to eventually replace the impacted hatchery supply flocks in that region."

In the meantime, restaurants say they're finding it hard to fill customer orders.

"We're getting about two-thirds of what we'd typically order and there's some days our food reps will call us and they say, 'We might not be able to get you anything'," Jeff Feather, who manages Duff's Famous Wings in Buffalo, New York, told CBS Newspath correspondent Michael George.

The chicken shortage also means higher prices for restaurants, which can lead to higher menu prices for customers. Moe Stevenson, who owns My Mama's Kitchen in Virginia, said he started noticing the price increase in January. 

"I thought it would drop off after the Super Bowl like it usually does or when March Madness is done," he said. "But no, it's actually going up."

Kent Von Fecht, co-owner of Lendy's Cafe and Raw Bar in Virginia, also remarked on the low chicken supplies.

"In my 26 years of business, I've never seen a chicken wing shortage," he said. "The prices have fluctuated, but nothing like this. Hopefully it goes away."