The Conversation: NFL Lockout Threatens Chicken Wing Business

Chicken magnate Joe Sanderson says lockout would cause harm to fowl.

ByABC News
March 17, 2011, 2:24 PM

March 17, 2011— -- With NFL owners and players in a standoff, the CEO of one of the nation's largest chicken farms warns that a longlasting football lockout would be bad news for a game day staple, the chicken wing.

"It will be a major blow," said Joe Sanderson Jr., CEO of Sanderson Farms, the fourth largest poultry company in the U.S. "If we don't have Sunday football, the demand will go down tremendously, and of course, if that happens, the price will go down."

Chicken wings are big business. According to Sanderson, wings account for 12 percent of his company's output, and the National Chicken Council estimates that in 2011, more than 13.5 billion wings will be marketed. Of course, football and wings are inextricably linked.

"We sell about 3 million pounds of wings a week," Sanderson said. "And a lot of those wings to go sports bars."

And while all game days are big business for wings, the "absolute peak," Sanderson said, comes on Super Bowl Sunday. According to the National Chicken Council, more than 1.25 billion wings were consumed during last Super Bowl weekend.

Pro football owners and the players union are in a disagreement over how much pay players should earn and how long the season should last. If there is no season next year, the effects will be profound, Sanderson said.

While Sanderson says that while the NFL lockout won't force layoffs at his company, he believes that plenty of other businesses, like restaurants that cater to sports fans, will be in trouble if the season is scrapped.

"The traffic through those restaurants will be lower, and they won't need as many employees in those restaurants," Sanderson said. "Businesses around the stadiums are going to be significantly affected, all the hotels and the whole cities."

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