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I did a lot of math today, which is bad news for all of you. You’ve been warned! —Tirhakah Love
Dinner Party Asks… When people ask you what journalism is, just show them this.
Spread Them Wings When people ask you what journalism is, just show them this.
Okay, so Vera Liddell, a food service director at a school just south of Chicago, was arrested for stealing about $1.5 million worth of chicken wings. First of all, free my sis!
But this astronomical number prompted one Kaitlin Jessing-Butz, New York Mag’s newsletter honcho, to pose a question.
In order to do my job and serve the people, I decided to take on this question with the seriousness and rigor it deserves. I first estimated how much a chicken wing is just off retail, which I thought was like 50 cents. You order a 20-piece wing, you expect to pay like $10, right?
Our whiteboard math.
That comes out to like 3 million wings.
But then Kaitlin reminded me of one simple fact: Retail isn’t a measure of actual value; it’s just how much people are willing to sell it for. Which is … A Point.
So I decided to, instead, estimate a wholesale price, which, I assumed, was like .3 cents a wing. ’Cus like why would you sell a wing without at least making .2 cents profit?
With this in mind, we landed on …
But then … once again we had to consider the economic downturn of the pandemic, which, at least for a while, raised the price of chicken wings and probably pissed off Rick Ross.
According to the report, Liddell was stealing chicken wings at the height of the pandemic, between July 2020 and February 2022. But that means we have to determine how much chicken wings cost at the time Liddell stole them. The USDA only releases figures evaluating the cost of whole chickens. In order to find out just the cost of the wings, we have to find out (a) how much of a chicken is the wing, and then (b) what is that value of that wing?
Okay, so the Google Machine tells me that the average weight of a chicken is 5.7 pounds and each wing weighs three ounces.
Taking a look at thischart tracking wholesale U.S. chicken prices, we find that the average value of a chicken in July 2020 was about $1.523 per kilogram, and we know a chicken weighs about 2.59 kilograms.
So the wholesale value of a whole chicken in July 2020 was $3.94. (I’m sorry, y’all, I got tired of taking all these damn screenshots; just trust me, I did the work.)
But then how much does just six ounces of that chicken cost? If we multiply 5.7 by 16 ( the number of ounces in a pound), we get 91.2. And if we divide $3.94 (which is the cost of a full chicken) by 91.2, we should get the cost of each ounce, which is .04 cents. So if she’s just stealing wings, that’s 26 cents a wing when she started stealing.
But. By the time Liddell got caught, in February 2022, the value of a full chicken was $2.83 per kilogram, and the cost of two wings was 48 cents.
So over her career of wing-swiping, to rack up $1.5 million worth of chicken wings, Liddell would’ve had to swipe between 3.125 million wings on the low end and 5.78 million wings on the high end.
Check my math. Surely it’s incorrect because I really don’t know much about algebra. But that’s a lot of goddamn chicken wings. Also, I’m physically exhausted and I think my brain is coming outta my nose.
Quote of the Day The folks behind the Laundress probably won’t be seeing heaven.
If you enjoyed this very silly itemization of chicken wings over the years, please be sure to pay your lunch ladies a fair wage. And if not, I hope the next time you order them, all you get is flats. Till tomorrow, freaks.