Report: Lockout may hurt wings industry

America’s multibillion dollar chicken wing industry could be an unintended victim of the NFL’s dispute with players, ABC News reported Friday.

The CEO of the nation’s fourth largest poultry company warned that a disruption to the football season could take a large bite out of the market, which produces 13.5 billion chicken wings annually.

"It will be a major blow," Joe Sanderson Jr., CEO of Sanderson Farms, told ABC News.

"If we don’t have Sunday football, the demand will go down tremendously, and of course, if that happens, the price will go down."

Sanderson is the largest supplier of chicken wings to companies such as Sysco Corp and US Foodservice, with the savory nibbles an integral part of American Football culture — more than 1.25 billion wings were consumed on Super Bowl weekend this year.

"We sell about 3 million pounds of wings a week, and a lot of those wings to go sports bars," Sanderson said.

"The traffic through those restaurants will be lower [if the dispute continues]. They won’t need as many employees in those restaurants. Businesses around the stadiums are going to be significantly affected, all the hotels and the whole cities."

The 2011 NFL season may not proceed unless the organization and its players can reach a collective bargaining agreement.

The players and owners are at odds mainly over how large a portion of overall revenue, projected at $9.4 billion for 2011, would be available for player compensation.

NFL Players Association formally decertified last Friday, a legal maneuver that preceded the filing of an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. The owners followed shortly after by declaring a lockout, the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for April 6. The players are seeking an injunction barring the owners from continuing with the lockout.