WASHINGTON D.C.: Chicken tenders may become a victim of failing supply chains, resulting in shortages in U.S. restaurants and grocery stores.
The price of breast tenders rose from $3.44 per pound last year to $3.54 per pound, but last week, the price went up to $3.98 per pound, reported the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The Biden administration has blamed illegal price fixing by the meat-processing industry for meat prices surging in grocery stores.
In a September post, the White House said the USDA is conducting an ongoing joint investigation with the Department of Justice into price-fixing in the chicken-processing industry.
However, meat manufacturers blamed extreme weather, labor shortages and high demand for the price increases.
In a September press release, Tyson Foods said, "Multiple, unprecedented market shocks, including a global pandemic and severe weather conditions, led to an unexpected and drastic drop in meat processors' abilities to operate at full capacity. Labor shortages are also affecting the nation's pork and poultry supply."
But not all experts agreed that a shortage actually exists.
Tom Super, senior vice president of communications at the National Chicken Council, said, "There is no chicken tender shortage. Like almost all goods right now, supplies are somewhat tight, but I would say it falls short of any shortage. Like almost anything right now, some products might take longer than usual to get to where they need to be, but in most cases they get there," as quoted by USA Today.
"We are dealing with the same rise in input costs, labor shortages and trucking challenges as most other industries right now. In the face of all of these supply chain challenges, chicken production will actually be up this year, according to USDA," he added.
As a result, many fast-food chains are reducing their reliance on chicken tenders.
McDonalds has announced it is temporarily removing chicken tenders from their menu because of supply issues, according to Nation's Restaurant News.
Anticipating shortages, KFC also stopped advertising chicken tenders.
"On chicken tenders, we have enough to supply demand, but we would love to have more to be able to aggressively promote it on TV," said KFC U.S. President Kevin Hochman to Bloomberg, in a September interview.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, plant-based alternatives also became popular, as meat prices increased.
According to an August report by Tastewise, an AI-powered food intelligence company, interest in plant-based meat experienced a 1,320 percent increase in U.S. menu listings since before the pandemic.