It’s got its own Instagram hashtag and a Facebook fan page with nearly 18,000 likes. While most supermarkets around the country offer roast chickens, few spit-roasted fowl have achieved the universal popularity of Costco’s $4.99 rotisserie chicken. The warehouse chain’s offer is such an institution that it sells millions of chickens a year to fans that include celebrities like Kris Jenner and heartthrob Adam Driver (via Eat This, Not That!).
Costco’s rotisserie chicken is a constant amid a sea of uncertainty. The Wall Street Journal says Costco’s roast chickens have stayed the same size and weight — 3 pounds, against the 1.5 to 2 pound-sized birds found in other supermarkets like Kroger (Costco has actually worked with farmers to create a feeding plan that results in larger birds). The fowl’s price tag hasn’t changed since 2009, which it was when it was first introduced. In fact, the company is so serious about keeping its prices steady that it took a loss of up to $40 million in 2015, when chicken prices spiked as a result of a bird flu outbreak. To make sure its chicken supplies aren’t compromised, Costco has also built a processing plant to the tune of $300 million, bringing the chicken sourcing process in-house (via CNN).
While economics is one reason for the popularity of Costco’s rotisserie chicken, it doesn’t really tell us why it tastes so good.
Costco chickens have no MSG
As with many rotisserie chickens on the market, Costco’s chickens are shipped from supplier to store pre-seasoned — and those seasonings are what make the chicken so appealing. A look at the label shows that Costco’s chickens are prepared without preservatives, gluten, and artificial flavors. The Kitchn has further revealed that the chickens are prepared with a mix of seasoning, potato dextrin, carrageenan, sugar, dextrose, and spice extractives. Notable for its absence is the controversial flavor-enhancer monosodium glutamate or MSG, which is known for its salty, umami quality and is widely used in Asian restaurants, as well as different processed foods. Some people have a sensitivity to MSG, and its symptoms include headaches, muscle tightness, numbness, tingling, weakness and flushing (via Healthline).
The Daily Meal says each 3.5-ounce serving of Costco rotisserie chicken contains 138 calories, 347 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of fat, and 17 grams of protein. In spite of this, the chicken gets the seal of approval from Dr. Oz, who calls it “one of the healthiest processed foods out there … and if you want to save calories, you take off the skin” (via The Kitchn). Unless you need to watch your diet for medical reasons, we’ll take Dr. Oz’s endorsement — and maybe enjoy just a bit of skin to go with the chicken.
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