Beef and burgers may be beloved, pork and bacon relished, and seafood held in high esteem, but judging by the numbers, no animal protein is as popular in the U.S. as poultry. Over the past 50 years, Americans’ protein consumption has shifted so that chicken represents double the proportion it did in the past while beef’s share has decreased and pork has held steady, per the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2020, Americans consumed an average of 97.6 pounds of chicken—far exceeding beef (58.4 pound) and pork (54 pounds), according to the National Chicken Council.
And if there were any doubt as to the American affinity for chicken, this past year’s wing shortage and the subsequent outcry from consumers made it clear that chicken is king.
Baby Got Fat
Even though chicken is considered a healthier menu item, it can still be indulgent. Chicken skin has the highest fat content; a single ounce serving without any meat contains 11 grams of fat and 128 calories. On the opposite side of the spectrum, a single ounce of skinless chicken breast contains only 3 grams of fat and 34 calories. (Buyers Edge Platform / Tyson Foodservice / USDA)
No Bones About It
When it comes to bone-in versus boneless wings, consumers don’t appear to strongly favor one over the other; 34 percent of consumers are likely to order bone-in chicken wings from a restaurant at least occasionally while 35 percent are likely to order boneless wings. (Buyers Edge Platform / Tyson Foodservice)
Part of what makes chicken so popular, especially compared to other animal proteins is its perceived healthfulness. A whopping 79 percent of consumers consider chicken to be healthy, and a quarter will choose chicken over other items specifically for that reason. (Buyers Edge Platform / Tyson Foodservice)
It’s a Grind
While wings were the hot ticket item of 2021, another chicken product has been steadily growing its sales. Within foodservice, ground chicken has experienced a 33 percent boost compared to 2020. (Buyers Edge Platform / Tyson Foodservice)
Hatching Fresh Ideas
Because chicken is such an integral part of so many menus, it can be easy to view it as a basic, unchanging ingredient. But a combination of chef creativity and shifting consumer tastes ensures the bird never gets boring. Here are some chicken trends to expect in the new year. (Buyers Edge Platform / Tyson Foodservice)
- Chicken thighs and legs find their way into more roasted, braised, and stewed dishes.
- The flavors and preparations of the African diaspora are showcased.
- Rich and succulent—but also easier on the wallet—dark meat becomes a more popular variety for operators.
- Vegan chicken nuggets and strips continue to grow, especially in the appetizer and snack categories.
Restaurant Shout-Out: Adobo Chicken
Boozehounds | Palm Springs, California
Chicken thighs are on the rise at restaurants and newcomer Boozehounds puts the rich cut to use in its Adobo Chicken. Simmered chicken thighs are served alongside rice and topped with chile threads and adobo broth, while a side of spice coconut vinegar packs a global punch.
Restaurant Shout-Out: Southern Special Fried Chicken Pizza
Crazy Love Pizza | Denver
Multi-concept chef and restaurateur Troy Guard marries two comfort food classics in the Southern Special Fried Chicken at newly opened Crazy Love Pizza. The square-pan Sicilian-style pizza has crispy bites of fried chicken baked in, plus pickles, fresh dill, and hot honey.
Restaurant Shout-Out: Flavored Bone-in Chicken Wings
The Wing Experience | Multiple Locations
Smokey Bones’ virtual brand proves that the chicken wing can be the perfect blank canvas for flavor innovation. The Wing Experience features no fewer than 50 different flavors, from staples like buffalo and lemon-pepper all the way to garam masala curry and hot cinnamon candy apple.