NEW YORK -- From sandwiches to tenders to nuggets to wings, some Americans are having a tough time finding their favorite meal.
Some analysts blame COVID-19 for an apparent chicken supply shortage.
The pandemic prompted poultry plants to reduce staff, and in turn, the need for comfort food when Americans stayed home had increased demand.
"We didn't have optimal chicken distribution. Some chicken was in some parts of the world that needed to be in other parts of the world. We just couldn't move it around," said Ben Kaplan, the CEO of TOP Agency, a network of marketing agencies.
Bad weather and power outages in major poultry-producing states like Texas and Arkansas only worsened the problem, according to the National Chicken Council.
Some experts say the surging demand for chicken started pre-pandemic.
Fast-food chains like McDonald's, known for its beefy Big Macs, reported that chicken is selling "beyond expectations."
And when Popeyes released its chicken sandwich in 2019, customers lined up around the block at restaurants across the country. According to the company, 203 million Popeyes Chicken Sandwiches were sold the year after its release, with one location reportedly selling 3,582 sandwiches in one day.
Moreover, KFC's comparable store sales spiked 14% last quarter, with the parent company's CEO saying the popularity of their new chicken sandwich coupled with a tightening supply has them struggling to keep up with demand. Chick-fil-A sales increased by 23%, and Bojangles recently announced shortages at 750 locations.
Collectively, fast food restaurants saw a 23% drop in customers during the pandemic, but fried chicken fast food sales only declined by 6%.
Derrick Blake, owner of Wings Take Out, in Little Rock, Arkansas, said he is feeling the impact of the shortage.
"We were closing throughout the day because we didn't have enough chicken to stay open," he said.