Finger lickin' gone: Is a chicken tender shortage underway?

Corrections and clarifications: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated a fast-food chain was experiencing a chicken tenders shortage. The story has been updated to remove that reference.

Chicken tenders may be the next casualty of supply-chain-generated shortages, according to a report by NBC News.

Chicken tenders require more processing and packaging, which makes them harder to find and more costly, the report said.

The price of breast tenders has gone up to $3.54 a pound this week from $3.44 a pound at the same time last year, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture released on Dec. 3. Last week, the price rose to $3.98 a pound, the report said.

Chicken and other forms of meat have already been subject to higher prices for the past year.

The reasons behind the meat shortage vary, depending on whom you ask.

With meat prices skyrocketing in grocery stores, the Biden administration cited illegal price fixing by the meat-processing industry.

"USDA is conducting an ongoing joint investigation with the Department of Justice into price-fixing in the chicken-processing industry," the White House said in a post in September.

Meat manufacturers cited extreme weather, labor shortages and high demand.

"Multiple, unprecedented market shocks, including a global pandemic and severe weather conditions, led to an unexpected and drastic drop in meat processors’ abilities to operate at full capacity," Tyson Foods said in a news release in September. "Labor shortages are also affecting the nation’s pork and poultry supply."

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Not all experts agree the shortage exists.

"There is no chicken tender shortage. Like almost all goods right now, supplies are somewhat tight, but I would say it falls short of any 'shortage,'" says Tom Super, senior vice president of communications at the National Chicken Council. "Like almost anything right now, some products might take longer than usual to get to where they need to be, but in most cases they get there."

Chicken tender prices have been declining since early September, Super says, which would indicate an increase in supply. Wholesale tender prices are down 18% from highs in early September, according to the USDA.

"We’re dealing with the same rise in input costs, labor shortages and trucking challenges as most other industries right now. In the face of all of these supply chain challenges, chicken production will actually be up this year, according to USDA," Super says.

Plant-based alternatives have boomed during the coronavirus pandemic as the prices of meat have gone up.

Plant-based meat company Beyond Meat launched Beyond Chicken Tenders in July to hundreds of restaurants nationwide.

Companies with plant-based meats cut prices to be more competitive with meat prices, and Beyond Meat experienced record sales during the pandemic, The New York Times reports.

Plant-based meat interest experienced a 1,320% increase in U.S. menu mentions since before the pandemic, according to a report in August by Tastewise, an AI-powered food intelligence company.

You can reach follow the author @michelle_shen10 on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Are chicken tenders latest shortage for consumers?