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September 8, 2012

With drought, football snack prices take wing

A six-minute drive from Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, Duff's Famous Wings partner Phil Kinecki is worried by two things: the team's performance and the price of chicken.

An eighth straight losing season for the Bills, who haven't made the playoffs since 1999, would hurt the restaurant's sales, and the cost of chicken wings, a game-day staple, has almost doubled in the past year. Bars in Buffalo, N.Y., popularized deep-fried wings in the 1960s, and Duff's sells about 1,200 pounds of them when the Bills play, 50 percent more than most days.

Food items popular during the football season, from corn chips and burgers to nachos and wings, are rising after the worst drought since 1956 damaged crops and increased the cost of feeding livestock. Tyson Foods and other poultry producers have cut output, boosting prices for buyers as the NFL starts its first full weekend of games on Sunday.

"Chicken-wing prices are high, but they're going to get worse," Kinecki said in his Buffalo-area restaurant. "A bunch of our vendors said they're expecting rises in chicken and beef prices. We're pretty worried about it."

Wholesale wings were at $1.855 a pound Wednesday, up from 90 cents a year earlier, and in March reached $1.90, the highest on record at the Department of Agriculture. Kinecki said he is paying $2.12 a pound compared with $1.09 a year ago.

Ingredients for nachos are up 20 percent in the year through July and near an all-time high reached in March, according to an index compiled by Bloomberg of monthly prices for corn chips, beef, processed cheese and pinto beans tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Corn and soybeans reached records in the past month, and global food costs tracked by the United Nations jumped 6.2 percent in July, the most since November 2009.

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