At $4.99 apiece, Costco’s rotisserie chicken costs less than a plethora of edibles including a good cup of coffee, which explains why 100 million of these birds are sold yearly.

It does, however, beg the question: How was this retailer able to keep the price at $4.99 amidst two decades of soaring food inflation?

A ‘Loss Leader’ Business Strategy

Business Strategist
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Because the red, blue, and white brand’s rotisserie chickens are so cheap, it sells more than any grocer on the planet.

According to Food Confections’ exposé on YouTube, this is not so much because it spells a good deal for the customer, but rather because it is a sound business strategy.

The marketing term for these budget-friendly rotisserie chickens is “loss leader”, and simply put, they are deliberately sold at an obvious loss to lure customers to the store.

Once inside the store, the likelihood of a shopper leaving with only a rotisserie chicken is small.

But with Costco, it is not that simple. 

Salt and Water Solutions 

Salt and Water
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Business is about checks and balances (and mostly profit). As such, it stands to reason that because Costco is – at best – breaking even with its cheap chickens, the franchise vies to keep the attached costs as low as possible.

If what you thinking is: “These soft, succulent, and tasty birds are compromised by cost-cutting? Impossible!” Think again.

The rotisserie chickens are injected with a saline solution making them look rounder and juicier, meaning, the unprocessed chicken is smaller and less appealing.

460 Milligrams of Salt per Chicken

 Salt for Chicken
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True, in an industry full of growth hormones, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners, salt water is one of the lesser evils. But with the amount of salt that Costco uses, their chickens could be, well… just as evil.

Each rotisserie chicken is spiked with 460 milligrams of the sodium flavorant. This means that if you are prone to absorbing a whole Costco rotisserie chicken by yourself, you are eating 20% of your recommended daily salt intake in one sitting.

Another shadowy ingredient lurking in the bird is sodium phosphate. While the FDA claims that this food additive is safe, there are prevailing sentiments that lean in the other direction.

Costco’s Chemical Flavor 

Costco’s Chemical
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In total, Food Confection claims 11 ingredients are added in the cooking of Costco’s rotisserie chickens with most of them being marinades, herbs, and spices. Needless to say, the exact combination is a trade secret.

Costo’s chickens are free of some of the more sinister dietary time bombs like MSG, hormones, artificial coloring and flavoring, and gluten.

With this being the case, you may think that while these birds are not per sé a health food, they are not significantly dangerous to your health either–until you encounter a chemical taste that is. 

Reports of a chemical tang in some chickens have filtered through and been credited to the spices and saline solution. 

American Michelin Star restaurateur, Chef Dave Chang, also weighed in on the chicken’s flavor and said that the birds do not taste that good when cold or reheated. He blamed this on inadequate seasoning.

A $450 Million Battery and Processing Facility

Chicken Battery and Processing Facility
Image Credit: YouTube/Food Confections

As for the production processes of these chickens, Costco is said to have it down to fine art, from hatchlings to the ovens that emanate the stomach-seducing smells every time you visit a Costco.

The operation starts in Fremont, Nebraska at a $450 million chicken farming and processing facility. 

While it helps the brand keep the price of its $4.99 offering static, it is not without odium.

Lawsuits For Mishandling Poultry

Mishandled Poultry
Image Credit: YouTube/Food Confections

Like many batteries and pig and cattle farms around the country, Costco’s Nevada Facility has come under scrutiny for questionable practices. 

According to Food Confection, there have been allegations that the facility is overcrowded while others claim its staff are overworked and underpaid.

Costco has denied these accusations, but some of the allegations faced by the Fremont facility have escalated to litigation. 

In one case, the trouble stemmed from within its ranks when two shareholders filed a lawsuit against the company for neglecting chickens at the Fremont facility.

Too Much Fat And Sodium

Chicken with Fat And Sodium
Image Credit: Youtube/Food Confections

Food Confection notes the cons of Costco’s rotisserie chicken to be its affordability and taste while the cons are their high sodium and saturated fat content along with intermittent cases of chemical-like flavor.

Additionally, when you ask health gurus you will hear that the chickens have too much fat and sodium which could be bad for the heart. 

The Cons Can be Navigated 

Navigating Costco Chicken Cons
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Fortunately, it is possible to skirt the cons and benefit from the ultra-low price offering. 

Food Confection advises: 

  • Choosing a chicken that is fresh out of the oven
  • Peeling off the skin because that is where most of the fat and sodium lurks
  • Using chicken in dishes like salads, soups, and sandwiches