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So clucked up! Chicken wing prices up ahead of Super Bowl

It's the hit of most Super Bowl parties, but last summer's drought caused farmers around the country to slow chicken production, and that's now hitting chicken wing fans in the wallet. NBC's Michelle Franzen reports.

Last summer’s drought has come home to roost in the price you’ll be paying for those Super Bowl party chicken wings.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday that chicken prices were up 6 percent in December, versus a year earlier. That's more than triple how much overall food prices have risen over the same time.

Food economists had been warning that the price of foods such as meats and dairy would likely rise because of the summer’s severe drought.

In the case of poultry, the drought led to a rise in prices for the grains that are typically used to feed animals such as chickens and turkeys. That, in turn, has pushed up the price of the chickens.

There are other factors that also are making chicken wings in particular more expensive this year, said Ryan Koory, an economist with IHS Global Insights who specializes in agriculture.

Last year, Koory said there was a glut in supply for chickens that led some farmers to decrease the number of chickens they produced. That in turn started to push prices up.

In addition, he said, in the past year and a half or so consumers have increasingly been turning to cheaper types of chicken, such as dark meat and wings, over pricier parts of the chicken such as chicken breasts. 

All that will likely translate into higher prices when you go to buy your chicken wings for next Sunday's matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers.

The National Chicken Council also said the rise in corn prices resulted in slightly fewer chickens being produced. The trade group is expecting 1.23 billion chicken wings to be consumed on Super Bowl weekend, a 1 percent decline from last year, because of the lower supply.

Despite the higher prices, Koory said chicken remains a better deal than other protein options.

“It’s still the cheapest meat, in comparison to a pork or beef,” Koory said.

Chicken wing lovers who are on a budget could have something to look forward to next year. If the weather cooperates and farmers don’t have to deal with a drought this summer, Koory said chicken prices should start to go down toward the end of 2013.

That means your chicken wings could be cheaper when you host that Super Bowl Sunday party in 2014.

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