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Why you may be paying more for chicken at the store

Virus Outbreak Colorado
Posted at 4:22 PM, Aug 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-23 16:22:22-04

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the production of chickens raised for meat was down 4% in the first quarter of 2021.

In Dundee, Illinois, organic farmer Cliff McConville saw a 20% increase in customers last year as stores ran out of chicken and consumers went directly to his farm.

"All of sudden, we just had hundreds of customers show up that haven't shown up before," he said.

This year, McConville expanded his chicken farm to meet consumer demand. But even in his store, they ran out of chicken wings. He says there were staff shortages at the processing plant, which meant fewer workers chopping up chicken parts. As for prices, they haven't changed in five years. 

"I don't like to raise prices if we don't have to, but in this case, it's required," said McConville.

At the All Grass Farms, feed costs, labor issues, fast-food chicken sandwich wars, and recent storms in Texas are impacting supply.

"Feed cost might have gone up five to 10 cents a pound a year, but this year we've seen a 20 cent increase, which translates into quite a difference in our profit margin," said apprentice Mike Milkowski.

A spokesman from the National Chicken Council tells Newsy, "while supply is somewhat tight, the sky isn't falling and production seems to be ramping up."

Even restaurant owners are feeling the pinch.

At Chicago's Korean chicken restaurant Crisp, owner Jae Lee says to offset the lack of chicken supply, he relies on six different distributors. He says typically a restaurant relies on one, and chicken prices nearly quadrupled.

"Chicken prices are obscene at this point," Lee said. "So prior to the pandemic, they've been as low as 99 cents a pound. We are now, as of today, at $3.69 a pound."

And that price is passed to customers. But it hasn't stopped regulars at Crisp, like Kate Zucker.

"Supporting local has been something that's been so important to me throughout all of this," she said. "It's kind of one of the only things that we did have control over."

Still, price increases can be a turnoff.

"For the most part, all our regulars have stayed," said Crisp general manager Calvin Buckner. "But sometimes you get that new customer, they look at the menu and they'll just be like, 'Too much for me.' I just hope prices go back down, obviously. It's better for everybody."

This story was originally published by Cat Sandoval at Newsy.