Chicken-lovers are going to have to wing it through the Great Poultry Crisis of 2021.
America’s biggest fast-food companies reported earnings this week, and executives from KFC to Wingstop stressed a dire situation — there’s simply not enough chicken to go around.
A meat-processing slowdown caused by pandemic safety measures along with a surge in demand for recently rolled out fried chicken sandwiches are largely behind the shortage, executives said this week.
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"Demand for the new sandwich has been so strong that, coupled with general tightening in domestic chicken supply, our main challenge has been keeping up with that demand," David Gibbs, CEO of Yum Brands, said Wednesday on a conference call with investors. KFC, which is owned by Yum Brands, recently rolled out a new fried chicken sandwich.
Dallas, Texas-based Wingstop also noted a shortage this week, attributing it to suppliers who are struggling to recruit new workers to meet demand.
Companies across other industries have also noted the difficulty of recruiting new workers, with some business owners attributing the problem to increased unemployment benefits that make it more attractive to remain on government assistance.
"Suppliers are struggling, just as many in our industry are, to hire people to process chicken, thus placing unexpected pressure on the amount of birds that can be processed and negatively affecting supply of all parts of the chicken in the U.S., not just wings," Wingstop CEO Charles Morrison said Thursday.
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"Until we see a marked change in the availability of labor for poultry producers, a labor shortage that we believe is largely fueled by the amount of government stimulus, we anticipate that wing prices could remain elevated for the balance of 2021," he added.
Bojangles, famous for its chicken and biscuits, isn’t immune either.