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Pork wings find a place on menus before pigs fly

Restaurants say customers want convenient, non-tradition snacks

A three-month-old pig stands in a pen in Walcott, Iowa, in 2018.  CREDIT: Bloomberg photo Daniel Acker
A three-month-old pig stands in a pen in Walcott, Iowa, in 2018. CREDIT: Bloomberg photo Daniel Acker

No, pigs don’t have wings, but that’s not stopping restaurants from selling them.

Although chicken wings long have been a game-day staple, non-wing wings are poised to become the surprise star at this year’s Super Bowl as chains such as Pizza Hut and Hooters stock up on cheap protein.

Boneless chicken wings — generally made from breast meat — have been gaining space on menus for years, and now pork wings are joining the ranks.

Restaurants are finding that Americans are longing for convenient and non-traditional snacks, and wingless wings seem to fit the bill.

Kathleen Hoffman, chef at restaurant distributor US Foods Holding, cites “a strong trend with millennials.”

Her company has been selling pork wings, or cuts from the leg known as shanks, to restaurants for about three years, and they’re gaining strength.

While sales are still lower than their chicken counterparts, “pork wings could play an important role” in 2019, Hoffman said. They easily take on flavor profiles such as Korean, Thai and Chinese, she said.

Meanwhile, the United States is bursting with meat. Domestic production of chicken and pork has hit a record just as overseas demand wanes amid President Donald Trump’s trade war.

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Retail prices for boneless chicken-breast meat, usually used to make boneless wings, declined for a fourth straight year in 2018.

Pork is following the same trend, with retail chop prices tumbling 17 percent since 2014.

“We generally have a lot of protein in the country now,” said David Maloni, executive vice president of analytics for ArrowStream, a food supply-chain consultant. “People are trying to come up with new menu items and put wings around it.”

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