Filed Under: Meat

No, Vegan Wings Are Not Becoming A Super Bowl Staple

Last week, Compassion in World Farming, an animal rights organization, estimated that 160 million vegan wings would be consumed during the upcoming Super Bowl LVI. 

But their math is so flimsy, they might as well have just said that fans would eat “160 bajillion” plant-based wings. Here’s how they got their dubious “160 million” figure: 

“Super Bowl viewership 2010-2019 was 108 million according to CNBC 2021, Sports Media Watch 2021. Estimates of the U.S. vegan and vegetarian population based on an average from Packaged Facts and the Vegetarian Resource Group (8% and 4%, respectively). Estimates that around 33.5% of the U.S. population is flexitarian averaged from Packaged Facts and OnePoll. Popular flexitarian diets range from only eating plant-based once per week to only eating meat once per week. We conservatively assume that one in seven (13%) flexitarians will eat plant-based during the Superbowl. The National Chicken Council estimates roughly 1.4 billion animal-based chicken wings consumed during each of the last three Super Bowls.”

Let’s break it down.

Average Super Bowl viewership 2010-2019 was 108 million according to CNBC 2021, Sports Media Watch 2021

  • This figure appears to be accurate, but Super Bowl viewership has declined in recent years. In 2021, just 96.6 million viewers watched the game – its worst ratings since 2007. In 2020 (just before the pandemic began), the game got 102 million viewers, again below the average cited. 

Estimates of the U.S. vegan and vegetarian population based on an average from Packaged Facts and the Vegetarian Resource Group (8% and 4%, respectively). Estimates that around 33.5% of the U.S. population is flexitarian averaged from Packaged Facts and OnePoll. Popular flexitarian diets range from only eating plant-based once per week to only eating meat once per week. We conservatively assume that one in seven (13%) flexitarians will eat plant-based during the Superbowl. 

  • Even if the group had accurately listed Packaged Facts’ data, that appears to be one of the more generous studies. Other polls find the vegan population at 0.5 percent and the vegetarian population at roughly 2 percent. 
  • As far as the “flexitarians” are concerned, it’s hard to say why they would be included at all. The OnePoll report notes that flexitarian is “defined as someone who does not adhere to one specific eating style and may combine plant-based and meat-based diets.” These are people who maybe do meatless Mondays. They’re likely not settling for plant-based wings during the Super Bowl. Even the “conservative” estimate of 13 percent seems high – and isn’t rooted in any real data showing that people would choose to go meatless during the big game. 

The National Chicken Council estimates roughly 1.4 billion animal-based chicken wings consumed during each of the last three Super Bowls.

  • Using the 180 million viewer average, that shakes out to 13 wings per fan. 

Using this data, Compassion in World Farming estimated that “more than 10 million Americans will be passing on animal-based chicken wings and instead consume over 160 million plant-based chicken wings.”

We’ve already established that the “10 million Americans” figure is flimsy and based on the most generous estimations of the size of the “flexitarian” population. But Compassion in World Farming takes it one step further to claim that fans are going to eat 16 wings each – three wings more than the National Chicken Council’s estimate. 

And that, of course, is assuming they all eat fake wings. Many vegetarians want to eat cleaner foods, not ultra-processed synthetic meat alternatives. They may stick with the veggies and hummus. 

Compassion in World Farming may wish that 10 million Americans were going to choose the Super Bowl to suffer through rubbery, flavorless vegan wings, but that likely isn’t going to be the case – no matter how they spin the numbers in their press release.

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