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State of Chicken Breast Prices: Wholesale Restaurant Food Cost Trends

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Justin GuinnAuthor

Restaurant operators need to monitor chicken breast prices in order to strategically adjust plate costs and menu prices.

The popular chicken cut is incorporated in menus items and listed on inventories across all types of restaurants, from fast-food to fine dining. The industry is still recovering from the inventory and supply chain turbulence caused by the pandemic, subsequent shortages, and high prices due to to ongoing food inflation.

Look at what we saw over the last year from chicken wing prices. Luckily the cost of chicken breasts hasn’t been as volatile — though it hasn’t been exactly smooth either.

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Restaurant chicken breast price trends

Toast is the point of sale system built for restaurants.

We're able to calculate the average monthly prices that restaurants pay for chicken breasts and other ingredients by using proprietary data from xtraCHEF by Toast, our invoice automation and recipe costing tool.

The average national price of chicken breast for restaurants is $3.68 in August. This represents a 7% month-over-month increase in average price of wholesale restaurant chicken breast.

Restaurant serving sizes for chicken breast are usually one single breast, sometimes two.

Here's the breakdown of recent MoM fluctuations in wholesale chicken breast prices:

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Here's a breakdown of restaurant wholesale chicken breast price movements since November 2022:

Going back to November 2022, chicken breast costs have fluctuated from a high of $4.15 to a low of $3.24 — with the average price during that time sitting at $3.50 per pound.

Different types of chicken breast: boneless, skinless, bone-in

Chicken breast meat, one of the most commonly used parts of a chicken for cooking, is also available in different forms. There are three main types of chicken breast meat: boneless, skinless, and bone-in.

  • Boneless chicken breast is versatile and easy to prepare, making it a popular choice in many restaurants. It is typically sold in pre-cut slices that are uniform in size and thickness, allowing for even cooking. It can be grilled, roasted, or baked and is often used in sandwiches, salads, or as a main dish served with vegetables or sides.

  • Boneless skinless chicken breast is a healthier option compared to chicken breast with skin, as it contains less fat. It is also more convenient to cook, as it does not require the additional step of removing the skin. In addition, it has a milder flavor compared to chicken breast with skin, allowing it to take on other flavors and seasonings.

  • Bone-in chicken breast is less commonly used in restaurants due to its more complicated cooking process. It takes longer to cook because of the bone, which can also affect the overall texture of the meat. However, because of the bone, the meat is more flavorful, moist, and tender.

One chicken, so many options: Whole chicken vs chicken tenders vs breast meat vs chicken wings vs chicken thighs vs chicken legs

When it comes to chicken, different parts of the bird provide varying textures, flavors, and nutritional profiles, making each part unique.

  • Whole chickens take longer to cook than individual chicken parts, which can impact kitchen efficiency and turnaround times, and lead to longer wait times for customers. Kitchens may want to have their whole chickens par cooked or running on a rotisserie, ready to break down and serve.
  • Chicken tenders are lean strips of meat that are often used as a popular appetizer or a kid's menu option. They are tasty, easy to make, and cook quickly, but tend to be more expensive per pound than other parts of the chicken.
  • Breast meat is probably the most versatile and popular type of chicken, sought after for its mild flavor, tender texture, and low-fat content. It is excellent for many dishes, such as chicken salad and stir-fry, and can be cooked in various ways such as grilling, roasting or baking.

  • Chicken wings are flavorful, easy to eat, and great for social gatherings and for sharing at a restaurant. They come in different styles like buffalo wing, honey mustard, and barbecue, and appeal to customers of different ages.

  • Thigh meat is perhaps the most underrated chicken part, but its rich, dark meat flavor and succulent texture make it the perfect choice for dishes that require slow cooking, such as stews and curries.

Overall, each chicken part can be unique and flavorful, and restaurant operators should consider utilizing them based on the cooking method, taste preference and customer demographic.

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Importance of organic chicken

Organic chicken refers to chicken that is raised under strict guidelines that restrict the use of antibiotics, hormones, and genetically modified feed. The idea is to provide a safer, more sustainable, and environmentally friendly source of protein.

While organic chicken has gained popularity in recent years, its importance in the overall food industry is often exaggerated. Studies show that the nutritional differences between organic and non-organic chicken are negligible, and the cost of organic chicken is often higher than conventionally produced chicken.

That said, organic chicken does offer some benefits for farmers, animals, and the environment. It supports responsible farming practices and can lead to reduced environmental impact and increased animal welfare. Additionally, some consumers may prefer organic chicken out of an overall concern for health and wellness.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, plays an important role in overseeing and regulating the chicken industry in the country. They work to ensure the safety and quality of the poultry products consumed by the public. The USDA provides various services and programs to support farmers, ranchers, and processors in the chicken industry.

White vs dark meat for fried chicken

When it comes to frying chicken, there is often a debate about whether to use white or dark meat. Both parts of the chicken have different textures, flavors, and nutritional profiles that can affect the overall outcome of a fried chicken dish.

White meat, usually from the breast, is leaner and has a mild flavor and a tender texture when cooked. It’s often used in dishes like chicken salads, stir-fry, or chicken sandwiches. However, because it has less fat, it can tend to get dry and overcooked when fried, making it less suitable for some fried chicken dishes.

Dark meat, usually from the thighs or legs, has a higher fat content, making it more flavorful and tender when cooked. It is especially suitable for fried chicken dishes, where the moisture from the fat keeps the meat juicy and succulent, with a crispy crust on the outside. It is popular for dishes such as fried chicken or chicken adobo.

Start tracking chicken breast prices today

Chicken breast is an essential protein for restaurants across all cuisine types. There's no replacing it, which is why it's critical for operators to consistently track and incorporating chicken breast prices into financial reports. Of course, this can be easier said than done. 

Tracking restaurant ingredient costs requires operators to have a strong back-of-house foundation built on invoice automation.

Invoices are the single source of truth for restaurant costs — pinpointing prices and fluctuations for individual ingredients as well as paper goods, non-alcoholic beverages, and more. 

With accurate and up-to-date ingredient prices from invoices, operators can start calculating plate costs. Plate costing is a detailed exercise that zooms into the recipes and/or individual ingredients that make up a dish — requiring detailed recipe costs and portion costs for ingredients.

Costing exercises can help show how each component is contributing to the overall profitability of a dish or drink. And recipe costing software can help make it easier to calculate and achieve an ideal balance between portions and profits.

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