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Restaurants Are Buying Hundreds Of Millions Of Wings In Preparation For The Super Bowl

This Sunday, Americans will eat an estimated 1.3 billion chicken wings.

Posted on February 4, 2016, at 3:38 p.m. ET

Jeff Fusco / Getty Images

The great Winging has begun. Americans are expected to eat 1.3 billion chicken wings this Super Bowl Sunday, according to the National Chicken Council, a lobbying group for the chicken industry — 37.5 million more wings than in 2015.

One of the busiest wing-slingers on this day: Buffalo Wild Wings, the Minneapolis-based chain that runs more than 1,140 U.S. sports bars and restaurants. "Super Bowl Sunday has consistently been one of Buffalo Wild Wings’ biggest days of the year," said Bob Ruhland, vice president of North America marketing at Buffalo Wild Wings. Last Super Bowl, the chain sold more than 11 million traditional and boneless wings, half of which were for to-go orders, and it expects to sell more this year.

chrissyteigen / Via

Preparing for the event is a massive undertaking at Wingstop, which says it's "the largest fast casual chicken wings-focused restaurant chain in the world" The chain, based in Dallas, has 786 U.S. locations, and served over 8 million wings (both boneless and bone-in) on Super Bowl Sunday last year — about triple as many as it would on a typical Sunday.

Each Wingstop outlet stores roughly 18,000 to 20,000 wings for the day. "You have a very full walk-in refrigerator. They fill it as far as they can," said Winsgtop Chief Marketing Officer Flynn Dekker. "Some have been known to get a refrigerated truck to keep some extra stock on hand because they'll go over the limits of their refrigeration."

"We have weeks where we plan ahead of time for it, and we have a planner so we know exactly how much capacity we have every 15 minutes," said Decker. "It's fresh [not frozen], so you have a very limited window when you can get that product in there. So that's basically being all delivered in the week of Super Bowl and a little bit of the week before that."

This weekend, thanks to a higher store count and new digital ordering system, wing sales are expected to hit 10 million.

The same goes at Hooters, which sells more than 2 million wings across its more than 300 U.S. locations on Super Bowl Sunday, mostly for takeout orders, said Hooters Chief Marketing Officer Carl Sweat. That's 22,000 extra wings per restaurant (or three to four times Hooters' average Sunday sales) and another 20 gallons of blue cheese sauce compared to a normal day. Said Sweat, "That's a lot of blue cheese dressing! Whoo!"

As food service outlets scramble to get their wings in order, there are still some who prefer to make their wings at home, but the Chicken Council estimates 75% of the wings eaten during the Super Bowl will come from restaurants.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.