9 Things to Know About Costco’s Rotisserie Chicken

Costco's Rotisserie Chicken on The Kitchen Counter

Supermarket rotisserie chickens are really satisfying, especially the ones from Costco.

They cost just $4.99 and are bigger than what you’d usually find at other stores. Since 2020, Costco has been selling over 100 million of these chickens each year, which is pretty impressive.

If you haven’t tried one yet, consider getting a Costco membership. It could be worth it just to try the chicken and see why so many people love it.

Here are some key facts about Costco’s rotisserie chicken that you might want to know before you go buy one.

1. They Have Their Own Chicken Plant

Costco's Chicken Plant

Costco bought a 400,000-square-foot poultry processing plant in Fremont, Nebraska, for $450 million in October 2019.

They did this to control the cost of their chickens, expecting to save up to 35 cents per bird.

According to CNN, Costco plans to process about two million chickens per week.

This strategic move made Costco the first retailer to manage its entire chicken supply chain, from production to sale.

2. Chicken is Gluten-Free

Costco’s rotisserie chickens are labeled “gluten-free,” distinguishing them from some other rotisserie chickens that use flour to help the skin become crispy.

This makes them a suitable option for customers with gluten sensitivities.

3. Ingredients: Simple, But Spices Remain a Secret

Costco's Rotisserie Chicken Ingredients

Costco’s rotisserie chicken contains only 10 ingredients: whole chicken, water, and a blend of seasonings which include salt, sodium phosphate, modified food starch, potato dextrin, carrageenan, sugar, dextrose, and spice extractives.

However, if you’re curious about the specific spices used in the seasoning, the details remain undisclosed.

Costco has not revealed the exact spices that make up the “spice extractives” in their recipe.

4. Cheaper Than Cooking Your Own

Usually, buying a whole uncooked chicken is cheaper because you’re not paying for the preparation or cooking.

However, at Costco, this isn’t the case. Their rotisserie chickens are actually cheaper than their whole, uncooked birds.

For example, a whole raw organic chicken at Costco can weigh up to five pounds and recently, it was priced at $2.99 per pound.

That’s almost three times the cost of one of their pre-cooked rotisserie chickens!

5. Price Unchanged Since 2009

Costco’s Rotisserie Chicken Price

Costco’s rotisserie chicken, priced at $4.99, first hit the shelves in 1994.

Apart from a brief increase in 2008 during the Great Recession, Costco has maintained the price at $4.99 despite ongoing inflation.

During the company’s latest earnings call, Costco’s Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti explained that keeping the rotisserie chicken priced at $4.99 is part of their strategy to drive membership and boost sales, viewing it as “an investment in low prices.”

6. New Batch Hack!

If you’re worried about Costco running out of rotisserie chickens before you get to the deli, listen for a bell ringing.

That sound indicates a fresh batch is ready. Make sure to head over quickly to get yours before they’re all gone!

7. A Strategic Loss Leader

Costco's Rotisserie Chicken Is A Strategic Loss Leader

Costco’s rotisserie chicken is sold as a “loss leader,” meaning it is priced below market value to draw customers into the store, encouraging them to buy more profitable items.

In 2015, Richard Galanti, Costco’s CFO, mentioned that while other stores increased their chicken prices from $4.99 to $5.99, Costco absorbed a loss of $30 to $40 million annually by keeping its price steady at $4.99.

By 2019, Jeff Lyons, Costco’s Senior Vice President of Fresh Foods, chose not to disclose to reporters whether the retailer was still losing money on the chickens.

8. Celebrity Chef Criticizes It

In January, during an episode of his podcast “The David Chang Show,” celebrity chef David Chang expressed strong opinions about Costco’s rotisserie chicken.

Chang labeled it as “the worst rotisserie chicken” and criticized its seasoning, stating, “They’re not good. They’re not seasoned.”

He emphasized the importance of proper seasoning, particularly for enjoying the chicken cold the next day.

Chang also mentioned his dislike for the additives in the chicken, describing them as making the chicken breast taste “even more disgusting the next day when it’s cold… It’s inedible. It really is.” 

9. Controversies at Costco’s Poultry Plant

Costco opened its own poultry plant with the aim of responsible sourcing, but it has faced significant backlash.

Environmental concerns, such as water contamination due to farm runoff, have been prominent.

Additionally, a lawsuit by two shareholders in June 2022 claimed serious animal welfare violations.

They cited a hidden-camera investigation by Mercy for Animals, which alleged that Costco breeds chickens to grow so quickly that many cannot stand.

The lawsuit accuses Costco of sending these chickens to overcrowded and poorly managed farms, leading to widespread suffering.

In response to these issues, activists have initiated a petition demanding improved welfare standards for chickens at Costco, collecting over 128,000 signatures so far.

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