The Costco $4.99 rotisserie chicken is one of the store's most popular items. But it's also been subject to scrutiny from customers who have complained about its size or price. So we've taken a closer look at what makes these birds so special.
Costco's rotisserie chicken program started as a way to draw foot traffic to the store and has turned into a cult favorite that's sold over 100 million annually.
You may have heard that Costco's rotisserie chicken program started as a way to draw foot traffic to the store and has turned into a cult favorite that's sold over 100 million annually. The truth is, while both of these statements are technically correct, they're also kind of misleading.
The program actually began in 1983 — not as an effort to increase traffic but rather as a way for Costco CEO Jim Sinegal to drum up interest in his company's new distribution center in California. At the time, he was unfamiliar with rotisserie chickens; he'd only ever seen them on TV commercials (probably because they were really popular at the time). He thought it would be fun if people could buy fresh-roasted chickens right after they were done cooking—and maybe even go home with some samples for dinner!
The chickens are relatively inexpensive, but they're filled with extra saline and water.
When you're shopping at Costco, you might think that it's a good idea to pick up one of the rotisserie chickens they sell. You're saving money and getting exactly what you want—a perfectly cooked roasted chicken with all the fixings.
The reason for this is simple: The chickens are relatively inexpensive, but they're filled with extra saline and water, making them more tasty and moist.
Processing 2 million chickens per week requires a lot of workers and facilities, so the company is adding an enormous poultry facility in Nebraska to help meet demand.
As far as poultry facilities go, this one is a monster. It will process 2 million chickens per week, which means it's the largest poultry facility, 432 acre-site, in Nebraska and the third-largest in America. The new plant will enable Costco to meet growing demand for its rotisserie chickens without having to raise prices on them or sacrifice quality control.
The Costco $4.99 Rotisserie Chicken is a loss leader
Costco has been selling its $4.99 rotisserie chicken for almost a decade, and it's not about to change anytime soon.
The retailer has made a name for itself by offering items at lower prices than other big-box stores. One of those items is the rotisserie chicken, which Costco began selling at $4.99 in 2009. In that time, selling rotisserie chickens has become more expensive because of rising costs related to labor and preparation. But Costco hasn't budged since 2009 — even when a bird-flu outbreak years ago pushed prices higher.
"When others were raising their chicken prices from $4.99 to $5.99," Richard Galanti, Costco's chief financial officer, said in a 2015 earnings call, according to The Seattle Times, "we were willing to eat, if you will, $30 [million] to $40 million a year in gross margin by keeping it at $4.99."
Costco chicken has turned into a cult following that's sold over 100 million chickens yearly
If you're a fan of Costco's rotisserie chicken, you're not alone. The store sells over 100 million chickens each year, making it one of the most popular items at the chain. That's because for a mere $4.99, you can buy yourself an entire bird! It's no wonder that so many people are obsessed with this deal.
Costco rotisserie chicken is a cult favorite, but it's not the healthiest choice. It may be tempting to buy one of these chickens when you're looking for low-cost protein, but it's best to opt for alternatives like eggs instead. You can also try making your own baked chicken with herbs and spices for an added flavor boost that won't break the bank!