McDonald's Mighty Wings headed to a menu near you: What are they?
McDonald's will begin rolling out its new Mighty Wings at locations nationwide Sept. 9. (Chicago Tribune )
McDonald's has decided to take its Mighty Wings national, just in time for football season. The fast-food giant's version of party wings is headed to a McDonald's near you Sept. 9.
McDonald's tested the wings at locations in Chicago and Atlanta before deciding to roll them out nationwide.
With a name like Mighty Wings, you'd expect the wings to be served with a cape, or at least a side of superheroes. In reality, though, they're just bone-in chicken drumettes and wings.
The Mighty Wings come in orders of three, five and 10 pieces with a choice of nine sauces.
You can dip them in Creamy Ranch, Honey, Barbecue, Hot Mustard, Honey Mustard, Chipotle Barbecue, Sweet Chili, Sweet 'N Sour or Spicy Buffalo.
The price for an order of wings will start at $2.99. The fast-food chain will have the wings at all locations nationwide by Sept. 24, but they won't last forever. The new item will only be available until the end of November.
The chicken wings are just the latest in a slew of new products McDonald's has rolled out in the last year. They include the premium chicken McWraps, egg white Delight McMuffins and blueberry pomegranate smoothies.
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As farmers raise fewer—but bigger—chickens, chicken-wing supply is getting tighter, forcing restaurants to look ways of stretching their supply on Super Bowl Sunday.
A plate of Buffalo chicken wings at the Bellevue Tavern in Cape May Court House, N.J.Associated Press
As farmers raise fewer—but bigger—chickens, chicken-wing supply is getting tighter, forcing restaurants to look at frozen wings, boneless wings and other ways of stretching their chicken supply to still make money on Super Bowl Sunday.
“Wings are always going to be popular…but the days of giving them away are over,” said Bruce Reinstein, a restaurant consultant at Consolidated Concepts, who works food-service providers such as Chevys and Houlihan’s. “It’s not like you can produce a chicken with four wings,” he said.
This weekend alone, the National Chicken Council says 1.23 billion wing segments—the drumettes and that other flat piece—will be consumed at restaurants and Super Bowl parties. Meanwhile, wing prices have surged 14% over past year.
While restaurants are raising menu prices, the tough economy limits their pricing power when it comes to what generally is considered an inexpensive dish. If prices got too high, consumers might trade down to pasta, said Heather Jones, an analyst with BB&T Capital Markets.
Sysco Corp., one of the nation’s biggest suppliers of food to restaurants, said it has seen an increase of about 18% to 20% in wing orders from retailers this Super Bowl season, compared with 2012. “Generally speaking, wings have become poultry’s hottest commodity, and we’re seeing all-time highs in demands and pricing as a result,” said Charley Wilson, a spokesman for Sysco.
Last summer’s drought caused an increase in the price of chicken feed, leading farmers to decrease their flock sizes and raise bigger chickens instead. Farmers sell meat by the pound, so one six-pound chicken is worth the same as two three-pound ones to them.
Bigger chickens yield more breast meat and larger thighs, keeping retail prices relatively steady for most parts of the bird. But not for wings.
When wing prices were cooler, “There was not too much forward-buying by retailers,” said Bill Roenigk, chief economist with the National Chicken Council, an industry-trade organization. “This year, looking at wing prices in the fall, retailers and suppliers at chicken companies could see this tightness of supplies coming…and retailers have gotten a little more adroit,” in their negotiations with suppliers.
The supply of frozen wings nationwide was up 68.4% as of the end of 2012, from the prior year, he noted. Frozen wings are cheaper because consumers generally don’t love the idea of eating non-fresh meat at a restaurant.
Sysco said it has been successfully promoting boneless wings as a “cost-effective alternative” to traditional wings. “And diners like them,” Mr. Wilson said. Boneless wings aren’t only cheaper, they can be used in other menu items like Caesar salad.
Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. is playing down its signature dish in its marketing, and is changing how it serves wings to offset the costs.
“Our restaurants have transitioned to larger size wings in response to the continuing shift in the poultry industry to larger bird production,” Chief Executive Sally Smith said on a conference call in October.
Buffalo Wild Wings said that in the first two months of the fourth quarter, its traditional wings cost an average of $2.07 a pound compared with the average fourth-quarter price in 2011 of $1.42—marking a 46% increase. But for boneless wings, the chain has long-term contracts going all the way through March 2014, alleviating cost pressures.
Buffalo Wild Wings began testing a new menu last fall, which it plans to roll out nationwide in the first half of this year. It offers vague order sizes for wings, such as “snack size,” instead of specific wing counts.
“Our goal is to recoup some of the lost margin…by moving to the flexible portions,” Ms. Smith said.
Buffalo Wild Wings doesn’t expect customers to mind, since they are getting more meat. “The good news is I don’t think the chickens can get any bigger,” Ms. Smith said.
Sanderson Farms Inc., the nation’s fourth-largest poultry producer, says it ran into that problem. It had to keep slaughterhouses running on Saturdays in order to kill chickens at a younger, lighter stage, because “They were too big for our plants to run and too big for our customers, frankly,” Chief Executive Joe Sanderson said on the company’s latest conference call.
While Buffalo Wild Wings highlighted burgers on their menu last month, some restaurants might promote dishes made with other parts of the bird, such as the thigh, or even market wings as “jumbo-sized,” so they could charge more, Mr. Reinstein said.
Domino’s, though known for its pizza, has also made wings a big part of its menu. But since cheese is cheaper right now, Domino’s is able to offset the cost impact.
“You’ve got bigger wings across industry than you used to, but our customers expect wings by the count, so we’re going to stick with that, and hope it evens out in the end,” Domino’s Chief Executive Patrick Doyle said.