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Last summer, after Popeyes ran out of its newly released chicken sandwich, it took months before the sandwich was back in stores. That was because there was a shortage of chickens with quarter-pound breasts, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.
According to the outlet, chickens have gotten several pounds larger in the last 100 years. Back in 1925, the average chicken raised for meat weighed 2.5 pounds, but today they weigh more than 6 pounds.
The sweet spot for chicken sandwiches are right in the middle, weighing less than 4.25 pounds, Bloomberg reported. That’s because the meat from those birds fits perfectly on a bun without the extra work of cutting up a larger chicken breast or figuring out what to do with the trimmings.
However, those smaller chickens are less plentiful -- and about three times the cost of breasts from a nine-pound chicken, Russ Whitman from Urner Barry told Bloomberg.
In fact, last year there were 2 percent fewer small chickens than the year before, but 10 percent more of the larger chickens larger than 7.76 pounds, Whitman told the website.
But Popeyes isn’t the only fast food chain that wants the smaller chickens for its sandwiches. Earlier this week, McDonalds announced it would add two chicken sandwiches to its breakfast menu.
Wendy’s has also reportedly been using smaller chickens since 2017 for more “tenderness and juiciness,” Bloomberg reported.
Aside from those chains, Chick-fil-A and KFC are also competing in the chicken sandwich wars, meaning that the shortage of small chickens is likely to continue, according to Bloomberg.
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“Whatever demand growth we might have on smaller breasts, there’s no new supply to meet that demand,” Will Sawyer, an animal-protein economist at CoBank ACB, told Bloomberg. “Everyone wants a bite out of that market.”