As Americans plan their menus for Super Bowl Sunday, the second biggest eating day of the year after Thanksgiving, few items will be more prominent on viewers’ plates than America’s favorite appetizer – chicken wings.

Super Bowl weekend is unquestionably the biggest time of the year for wings.  More than 1.25 billion wing portions will be consumed during Super Bowl weekend in 2012, totaling more than 100 million pounds of wings, according to the National Chicken Council’s (NCC) 2012 Wing Report.  If the wings were laid end-to-end they would circle the circumference of the Earth – more than twice – a distance that would reach approximately a quarter of the way to the moon.

Some 23 percent of those who watch the big game will eat chicken wings, up slightly in popularity from last year, and second only to dips and spreads (32 percent) on Super Bowl menus, according to the third annual Supervalu Snack Down Survey by Harris Interactive.

NCC Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Bill Roenigk points out that chicken wings will be consumed by three times the number of Americans on Super Bowl Sunday than a typical Sunday throughout the year.  About half will be ordered from restaurants and half purchased from retail grocery stores.

“Foodservice and retail grocery stores should really be commended for helping chicken companies take a small part of the chicken and make it such a big part of Super Bowl Sunday,” Roenigk said.  “Whether the wings are mildly-spiced, medium-spiced or super-hot, restaurants and grocery stores have made wings a bigger part of menus throughout the year.”

While the Super Bowl is an extremely popular television event – with 111 million viewers in 2011 – there are still about 196 million Americans who will not tune into the game.

“Chances are good that those people not watching the Patriots and Giants battle for the Lombardi Trophy on February 5th will be at home eating their normal Sunday night dinner,” added Roenigk.  “Chances are very good that some other part of the bird is on their plates, too.”

Research from The NPD Group points to the same conclusion.

“Other chicken dishes are seven times more popular than wings on Super Bowl Sunday,” added Harry Balzer, chief food and beverage industry analyst and vice president of The NPD Group.  “Chicken is a very popular dish overall on that day… and it’s not just wings.”

To view the entire report, which includes NFL playoff regional wing consumption data, 2012 yearly projections, “wing-onomics,” wing-inspired events and a history of the chicken wing, click here.

For an infographic highlighting facts about chicken wings and the Super Bowl, put together by USDA AMS, click here.