A few weeks ago, my family had a get-together for a birthday party. Me living in Buffalo, the menu was fairly typical. Pizza and chicken wings. Like a lot of chicken wings. Hot, mild, BBQ, all flavors were represented. However, something else about the chicken wings was very, very atypical. They had cost much more than their usual $1/wing. It was more like $1.50/wing. What gives? Well…I’ll tell you what gives. And it just may be a new marker for inflation!
The great chicken wing shortage of 2021
Apparently, during this pandemic, people have been eating wayyyyy more chicken wings that usual. Thus, supply has decreased as demand has increased.
This is ridiculous but sadly true. Across the country, but especially in Buffalo, NY, the birthplace of the wing, prices have risen steadily and reached a peak now (mid-May) due to these consumer based factors.
Any freshman in a business class can tell you that this leads to rising prices.
Fine, COVID. Take my toilet paper. But seriously, stay away from my chicken wings!
Sure, there have been other variables like the bad weather in Texas affecting distribution earlier in the year. But truly the COVID demand seems to be the most lasting thing.
And demand leading to increased wing prices is not new. Every year, prices and demand go up a bit during the Super Bowl season. But they steadily decrease after.
This year? No decrease.
“Ok, I get it, Jordan. But c’mon, why are we talking about wings?”
I’ll stop my chicken wing rant.
But this did get me thinking about about inflation. Could the chicken wing-dex become the next great inflation marker? Kind of like the Big Mac index that The Economist uses?
Vetting the wing-dex inflation marker
So, I went online and did some research about long term chicken wing prices. And I found some interesting stuff.
For instance, the price of chicken wings is quite inelastic. This at least according to the head of a chicken consulting firm…yep, they exist apparently. For instance, the price of chicken breast is more elastic. If prices go up, people just stop buying and they go back down. Not the case with wings. Apparently people get really attached to them.
But, this price inelasticity makes it a good candidate for a consumer inflation index.
Long term inflation trend
According to Jayson Lusk who has a Food & Agriculture blog, the price of chicken wings at a wholesale level has risen consistently over the past 20 or so years.
He complied prices from 1992 to 2019 and found an overall increase in price per pound of $2.00 from $0.50 to $2.50.
So far, looking so good.
Comparison to dollar inflation
This increase in chicken wing price per pound amounted to an approximately 500% increase in price over 27 years.
In comparison, the cumulative inflation rate from 1992 to present is about 89%.
This is where things start to fall apart a bit. The inflation of chicken wings has far exceeded that of actual inflation.
Susceptibility to consumer trends
And the nail in the coffin.
Unfortunately, despite being overall less elastic that other chicken parts, wings still have some kind of significant susceptibility to consumer trends.
I mentioned before the Supper Bowl. Look at this graph showing the price of wings based on when the Super Bowl is played each year (Another shout out to Jayson Lusk for this info).
This makes chicken wings just not quite ideal as an overall marker of inflation. But I think it is still a fun inflation marker…and one that I’m going to keep following…
What I am doing about inflation
Alright, let’s get serious for a moment. A lot of people, especially currently, are really worried about inflation. More money has been put into the market due to stimulus packages etc. in the past year than probably at any point in the past. People are rightfully concerned that this may lead to inflation.
It makes sense on its face. More money in circulation equals more money available to use. More money available to use equals people more likely to spend.And more likely to spend equals places increase their price until people won’t spend. This sets the newly inflated price point.
But it’s not the simple in my mind. People during the pandemic have been saving at a much higher rate as well. This is a welcome trend that developed from being faced with a worst case scenario situation in the pandemic.
But the real bottom line is that we just don’t know
And even more than that, there is nothing we can do to control it. So I don’t try to rub off my crystal ball and start making these predictions. It would drive me crazy.
And I don’t go out of my way to try and place a massive hedge on inflation in my financial plan.
I feel confident that by following the basic formula of savings at least 20% of your income and investing it wisely for the long term will result in a stable and very commutable nest egg for retirement regardless of inflationary influences.
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I also know that we as high-income earners are fortunate in that inflation should never outpace our salary in terms of the necessities. We will always have enough for food, clothing, and great housing. And then some.
I do still hedge though
And my hedge is real estate.
By investing in cash flowing real estate, I have a hedge against inflation. When inflation rises, the rest on my real estate units rises commensurately. Therefore, my cash flow increases right along with inflation.
It’s not the main reason or even in the top 3 reasons of why I invest in real estate.
But it is a nice cherry on top.
Looking to get your personal finances in order to beat inflation? Check out these posts!
- Financial Education Needs To Be Tied Into Medical Education
- 10 Reasons a Hybrid Investing Approach is Best
- The 3 Simple Steps for Doctors to Achieve FIRE
- Defining the Most Important Variables in the FIRE Equation
What do you think? Do you worry about inflation? Why or why not? How do you think your financial future will be affected by it? Any hedges? Let me know in the comments below!
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