By Julie Watts

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5 / AP) – For many in the Bay Area and beyond, chicken wings are a necessary staple of a Super Bowl Sunday diet, particularly this year with the San Francisco 49ers in the big game. But getting one’s hands on the bite-sized bits may be easier said than done thanks to a spike in corn prices.

According to the National Chicken Council, the increase in the cost of corn – in tandem with other factors – has resulted in fewer birds produced overall.

“Chicken companies produced about one percent fewer birds last year, due in large part to record high corn and feed prices,” said Bill Roenigk, the council’s chief economist and market analyst. “Corn makes up more than two-thirds of chicken feed and corn prices hit an all-time high in 2012, due to two reasons: last summer’s drought and pressure from a federal government requirement that mandates 40 percent of our corn crop be turned into fuel in the form of ethanol.”

He added, “Simply put, less corn equals higher feed costs, which means fewer birds produced.”

Officials at the NCC additionally noted that wing consumption on game day has decreased as a result, to the tune of 12.3 million fewer wings total.

The nation will still dine on an impressive amount of chicken wings, however – an estimated 1.23 billion wings are expected to be eaten during the Feb. 3 showdown between the 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture report released earlier this month on the 2012 growing season showed farmers harvested 10.78 billion bushels of corn, less than three-fourths of what the agency predicted last spring.

(Copyright 2013 CBS San Francisco and the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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