The chicken sandwich may have finished 2019 as poultry’s best player, but on Sunday, the chicken wing will be the MVP.
Super Bowl Sunday is the unofficial annual day of the wing; and this year, Americans are expected to eat a record 1.4 billion of them, 27 million more wings than during the big game a year ago, according to the National Chicken Council’s annual Chicken Wing Report.
“Super Bowl is the single-biggest wing occasion,” National Chicken Council spokesman Tom Super told USA TODAY. “The demand for chicken has been increasing, and consumption is at an all-time high. But definitely around Super Bowl time, wings are king.”
And to be clear, we’re talking about the traditional bone-in wings – not boneless wings, which the Chicken Council’s Super called “chicken breast with buffalo sauce.”
For game day, he estimates two-thirds of wings will come from takeout and a third will be made at home. Super Bowl Sunday has been the No. 1 revenue day of the year for chicken wing restaurants, according to an analysis by Womply, a small-business software provider.
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Super Bowl 2020: Big food day
This Sunday is likely to be one of the biggest party days of the year. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2020 Super Bowl survey, nearly 194 million adults said they had plans for the game, which pits the San Francisco 49ers against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV from Miami.
All the parties and food add up.
The retail group’s survey estimates the average person will spend $88.65 on food and beverages, merchandise and party supplies, for a total of $17.2 billion nationwide.
Super Bowl Sunday is also still a big day for pizza chains.
It’s one of Domino’s top five busiest delivery days of the year in the U.S. The pizza chain says it typically sells about 2 million pizzas on game day, which the company says is 40% more than a normal Sunday.
What about plant-based?
While KFC and Beyond Meat announced this week an expanded test of plant-based Beyond Fried Chicken, the vegan-friendly “chicken” will miss Sunday’s kickoff. The test starts Monday in more than 70 locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Nashville, Tennessee, and surrounding areas.
Sandy Sauter, executive chef of programs at The Culinary Institute of America, said there’s also movement in “plant-forward” rather than “plant-based.”
She said while Americans aren’t completely removing meat, they’re trying to make some substitutions and adding more vegetables and other plant-based ingredients into their meals, including on Super Bowl Sunday.
“One easy game-day swap is cauliflower,” Sauter said. “We’re seeing a proliferation of Buffalo-style cauliflower on restaurant menus and this versatile vegetable also lends itself to other favorite wing sauces, including barbecue, sweet and sour and sweet chili pepper.”
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Follow USA TODAY reporter Kelly Tyko on Twitter: @KellyTyko