93.7 Billion Chicken Wings

There was once a day in the not so distant past when chicken wings were tossed straight in the garbage. Regarded as an undesirable and inedible part of the chicken for many years chicken wings were never considered for consumption. Millions of delicious chicken wings were wasted until someone had the inclination to take these scrap chicken parts, drop them in hot grease, and lather them in a spicy sauce. Instantly a food phenomenon had been created in a little bar in Buffalo, New York. The chicken wing craze had begun and rapidly swept across America and the rest of the world.

On March 4, 1964 Domenic was tending bar at Anchor Bar, a family-operated business. Later that night after the kitchen closed Domenic’s very hungry friends came to the bar. Domenic asked his mom, Teresa Bellissimo, if she could find something in the kitchen to make for his friends. She took some chicken wings that were usually used to make broth, placed them in the deep fryer, and covered them with a secret spicy sauce. The new bar snack was an instant hit and soon locals flocked to the bar to get their fill of chicken wings. It wasn’t long before the Buffalo wings were permanently placed on Anchor Bar’s menu and on the menus of restaurants across the country.

Before chicken wings became insanely popular restaurants would sell them for pennies per wing. Chicken wings seemed be used as more of a promotional item rather than a profitable menu item. Restaurants were practically giving their chicken wings away just to get people into the restaurant. Many restaurants in and around Buffalo would offer happy hour deals that would be impossible to find today. A large pizza with a couple toppings, 20 wings, and a pitcher of beer would set you back only $20! Ahh, the good old days.

Today it is obvious to see the tremendous impact the chicken wing obsession had on the world. The chicken wing has built such empires as Buffalo Wild Wings, Wingstop, Wing Zone, Wings Etc., and Hooters to name a few. The chicken wing is responsible for catapulting sales for Frank’s Red Hot, ranch dressing, and chunky blue cheese dressing. In 2017 Americans consumed around 93.7 billion chicken wings, that’s 290 wings per person. It was estimated that Americans devoured 1.33 billion chicken wings during Super Bowl LI weekend (2017). The National Buffalo Wing Festival held on Labor Day weekend in Buffalo, NY draws in more than 80,000 wing lovers per year. Chicken wings even have their very own day; July 29 is National Chicken Wing Day (no joke). What can we say about all of this except for thank you, Teresa, for unleashing the wing eating maniac in all of us!

Perhaps if it were not for the chicken wing you may have known Buffalo only for its harsh winters and losing the Super Bowl four times in a row. But you don’t need to go all the way to Buffalo to find a restaurant or bar claiming to have the best wings in town. There are tons of mom & pop shops with over-worked waitresses serving endless mounds of wings, huge pizzas, and pitchers of cold beer. Many quaint little joints where you could hang out with your friends until the early morning hours. Going out for chicken wings has become a ritual for Americans and in some way chicken wings play a significant role in bringing everyone together. (I’m sure the beer has something to do with it as well but that’s an entirely different story.)

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