McDonald's wings go national. Can chicken market handle it?

McDonald's wings, called 'Mighty Wings,' will be introduced nationally in September after a successful run in Atlanta-area restaurants. Will McDonald's chicken wings make chicken wing demand take flight?

Mark Lennihan/AP/File
A McDonald's marquis is illuminated in New York's Times Square last month. McDonald's wings are coming: The burger chain has announced that it will take 'Mighty Wings,' a bone-in chicken wing offering, national after a highly successful trial run in Atlanta.

Now it's official, although the rumors have been ... er ... flying all year: McDonald’s is taking chicken wings national.

The world’s largest burger chain announced Monday that Mighty Wings, an entrée of spicy breaded chicken wings, will debut in all McDonald’s locations across the country. The first batch of stores will have them Sept. 9, with a national rollout following on Sept. 24.

“Mighty Wings,” aren’t exactly new: McDonald’s began selling them, under the same name, back in 1990, and they were discontinued in 2003. But they were brought back for a limited market test in about 280 Atlanta-area stores last summer – a move that proved wildly successful. Now, they’re scheduled to be available through November. 

Even before today’s announcement, the possibility of McDonald’s reintroducing bone-in chicken wings was ruffling feathers (sorry!) in the fast food industry and beyond. For one, Mighty Wings puts McDonald’s in direct competition with a new set of restaurant chains, including KFC, Popeyes, and a quickly growing sector of restaurants revolving around buffalo wings (Buffalo Wild Wings, Atomic Wings, etc.). McDonald’s is the biggest game in town, and the one with the most resources, so one can only assume that this isn’t exactly a welcome development in the chicken-heavy corner of the fast food world.

Second, it has the potential to create even more demand – and subsequently higher prices – for an already scarce resource: chicken wings. Due to increasing popularity and less than favorable agricultural conditions, including a widespread drought last summer, buffalo wing prices spiked 52 percent last year, and some analysts estimate that wholesale wing prices could pass $2 per pound by next January. (Chicken wing prices typically peak in late January, leading up to the Super Bowl). Joe Sanderson, chairman and chief executive of poultry producer Sanderson Farms Inc., told Bloomberg that Mighty Wings could “shorten up” supply in the fall (Sanderson Farms does not supply wings to McDonald’s).

For customers, McDonald’s Mighty Wings will come in packages of three, five, or 10 wings, starting at $2.99 (prices vary by location). They come with a choice of nine sauces, including chipotle barbecue, creamy ranch, and honey mustard.

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