Chicken wings and hydro: Parts, yum and hum

According to the National Chicken Council that has member companies which include chicken producer/processors, poultry distributors and allied industry firms, the organization estimated Americans would eat about 1.3 billion chicken wings on Feb. 7, during “Super Bowl Sunday.”

That’s a mouthful!

But, what the heck do chicken wings have to do with hydro? Well let me tell you, indirectly, comparisons about the two — from the viewpoint of one who loves food and hydro — wings and hydro share many characteristics.

Wings have, for a very long time, provided fuel as has hydropower. Similar to hydroelectric generation being part of the energy mix, chicken wings are part of a system and this system just happens to be an entire bird.

A chicken wing, I recently learned, is an all white-meat portion composed of the drumette, mid-section and tip.

  • Wing drummettes– The first section between the shoulder and the elbow;
  • Wing mid-section with tip — The flat center section and the flipper (wing tip); and
  • Wing mid-section — The section between the elbow and the tip, sometimes called the wing flat or mid-joint.

Boneless wings are some unknown “chickeneer’s” brilliant marketing ploy. There is really no such thing as a boneless chicken wing. Boneless chicken wings are simply breaded pieces of chicken breast.

Hydroelectric generation types, I am learning, have sections:

  • Traditional micro, small and large hydropower;
  • Marine hydrokinetic — Wave, tidal and riverine; and
  • In-pipe generation technology.

During the 29 hours I spent leading up to game day buying, marinating (24 hours), cooking, devouring and cleaning dishes, I had a chance to envision similar characteristic of chicken wings to hydroelectricity.

In the U.S., the chicken wing has obviously been around since, well the chicken. Of course, hydropower has been providing significant amounts of energy in the U.S. since the 1800s. But here’s the thing, and correct me if I am wrong: The U.S. food industry got serious about the economic potential of chicken wings in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Up until that time, according to the food industry, chicken wings were the least economically desirable part of the bird. It was not until the late 1980s when bars began offering plates of wings to eat to it’s customers along with consuming copious amounts of alcoholic beverages.

Later in the 1990s, restaurants began offering wings as standalone meals. Now, several food chains exist in the U.S. that base their existence on that little old wing-thing — to the tune of US$409 million in the fourth quarter for one well-known chain.

Like wings, hydro for most of the U.S., based on its use in comparison to fossil fuel, could be viewed as one of the least used forms of energy producing technologies. I hold this view because the majority of able dam sites in the in the U.S. are not producing hydropower. It seems to me that when the dams were built, long-term plans would have been put in place to develop a scheme to produce power if generating renewable energy was the ultimate goal.

Like the wing-thing — from “bleh” to yum — many types of hydropower technologies are being seen with fresh, new environmental and economic appetites.

Yes, similar to dealing with the environmental affect of chicken poop before we can realize the yum, dealing with regulatory and economic issues related to hydropower development must be dealt with before we can enjoy power as evidenced from the turbine’s hum.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for

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