KANSAS CITY — Chicken is the protein of choice in menu item innovation, despite a recent shortage of the poultry in the United States.

Broiler chicken production dropped 4% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to last year, and a pound of chicken produced fell 3% during the quarter, according to data from the National Chicken Council.

“Chicken producers are doing everything they can to overcome the devastating impact of Mother Nature when she inflicted the once in a lifetime winter storm on Texas and nearby states — major chicken producing regions,” said Tom Super, senior vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council. “It will take time and effort to eventually replace the impacted hatchery supply flocks in that region, but supply should catch back up to demand soon.”

Perhaps in anticipation of the poultry pendulum swinging back soon, a number of restaurants are serving new menu items featuring chicken.

Shake Shack’s new Hot Honey menu includes a chicken sandwich and chicken bites. Newk’s Eatery’s new “Q” Fest Menu features a pizza, sandwich and salad all topped with chicken breast. Arby’s is adding Chicken Nuggets to its menu, Whataburger is offering two new Pico de Gallo Chicken Sandwiches, Firehouse Subs is debuting a Chicken Gyro Sub, and Roy Rogers is rolling out a Honey Maple Chicken Biscuit. Round Table Pizza’s new Charred Lemon lineup includes a new pizza and salad topped with lemon pepper grilled chicken, plus new Charred Lemon Chicken Wings.

Offering a plant-based poultry alternative is Veggie Grill with its new Crispy Buffalo Chickin’ Sandwich. The meatless menu addition features a plant-based crispy patty topped with ranch, Buffalo sauce, pickles, lettuce and tomato all layered on a toasted brioche bun.

"We believe our plant-based Crispy Buffalo Chickin' Sandwich rivals any other fried chicken sandwich offered on the market," said T.K. Pillan, founder and executive chairman of Veggie Grill. "All our menu items at Veggie Grill are meant to be familiar and delicious for those that are embracing their conscious food journey and to showcase just how good plant-based food is today."

View slideshow of new menu items.