Chicken Thigh Prices Have Steadied After Major Spike Last Year

Food costs have steadily increased as supply chain issues and inflationary pressure continue to hammer the economy. Adding to the price turmoil, the war in Ukraine is upending vegetable oil production and wheat is feeling the forces of the conflict as well as the extreme drought clobbering crops not just in the U.S. but across the globe. Chicken, usually a more cost-effective protein in the grocery store's butcher case, was not immune to price increases. A March 2022 report from the USDA predicts poultry prices will go up a whopping 14.5 – 15.5% this year.

This increase is on top of chicken's already skyrocketing cost in 2021. The Wall Street Journal reports that breast meat prices doubled and the cost for chicken wings — a favorite in sports bars across the U.S. — hit record highs. This caused restaurants to turn to the humble chicken thigh to replace products that had an untenable cost or because supply chain shortages meant chefs simply could not get the items into their kitchens. Even wing-specific restaurants like Wing It On! and Wingstop added thighs to their menu and devised marketing campaigns around the dark meat to entice consumers to try them (via the Wall Street Journal).

Chicken thigh prices stabilize

There is some good news going into the third quarter of 2022. Tasting Table sourced data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that the price of chicken thighs is beginning to stabilize. The dark meat hit a record high of $2.49 per pound in September 2021 before plunging to 98 cents by the end of October. Another spike in April of this year brought prices back over the $2 per pound mark. However, over the ensuing months, the price has leveled out considerably to a slightly more comfortable range.

While stable prices are certainly welcome, Restaurant Business News reports that restaurants still feel the inflationary pressures. Pasta chain Noodles & Company instituted a temporary $1 surcharge on chicken items to account for the 70% cost increase in poultry prices during the first quarter of 2022. While Noodles & Company CEO Dave Boennighausen acknowledges prices have stabilized, they've done so at an elevated level, which he does not expect to come down.