Everything you need to know about Costco chicken

Costco rotisserie chickens are a phenomenon. They are sold under the franchise brand, Kirkland Signature, whole chickens are super tasty, super popular, and super cheap. For as little as $ 5, in fact, they can be less expensive than a whole, uncooked chicken.

But they are also a source of controversy. Last year, the animal rights group Mercy for Animals sent an undercover investigator to work – and film – on one of Costco‘s factory chicken farms in Nebraska. The resulting video, posted in February 2021, showed swollen, injured and deformed chickens living in a dark, crowded warehouse. It was the subject of a New York Times op-ed, and became a central part of a Mercy for Animals initiative called Costco Exposed.

Since then, Mercy for Animals has lobbied Costco to sign the Better Chicken Commitment, a petition from the organization and several other animal rights groups. He urges the poultry industry to change the way it raises birds, improving their welfare, as well as the safety of the meat that is sold.

While more than 200 companies, including Whole Foods, BJ’s, Burger King, Chipotle and Subway, have signed that pledge, Costco and other large chicken producers have not.

A Costco spokesperson told Consumer Reports that the company “does not have a plan in place to adopt all of the Better Chicken Commitment requirements,” but added its “internal standards for our dedicated growers.” . . they demand the fulfillment of the appropriate requirements for the welfare of the broilers ”.

If you are wondering what to do with the situation, this is what you need to know. We also have information on the other chickens the company sells, as well as some alternatives from other retailers.

Rotisserie Chicken from Costco

While Costco’s Whole Rotisserie Chicken has become famous for its convenience, flavor, and low price, the product is not unique. Other chains also sell rotisserie chicken at a good price. For example, ShopRite offers a rotisserie chicken from its own brands, Bowl & Basket, for $ 5, the same price as Costco’s.

However, while rotisserie chickens are convenient, tasty, and easy to carry, they are often not that good for your health. As CR previously reported, a saline solution is often injected into cooked chickens to improve flavor and make the meat more tender.

Costco Rotisserie Chicken has 460 mg of sodium per 3-ounce serving. That’s one-fifth of the maximum amount of sodium adults should consume in a day (2,300 mg). ShopRite’s Chicken Bowl & Basket has even more sodium, 490 mg per 3-ounce serving.

A better option: cook your chicken

Of course, people buy rotisserie chicken when they don’t want to cook at home. But Amy Keating, RD, a CR resident nutritionist, says that a rotisserie chicken can be a meal you can easily make at home once you have the recipe. It can also be healthier.

“You can roast your own chicken using the oven, a multi-cooker, the grill, or even the convection toaster oven,” he says. “But skip the salt, or use just a little bit, and season with a variety of dried herbs and spices, such as pepper, thyme, rosemary, sage, and garlic powder. To give it more flavor, you can put several cloves of garlic and a lemon cut into quarters in the cavity of the bird ”.

Costco Conventional Raw Chicken

The company’s rotisserie chickens are the same that it sells raw under its Kirkland Signature brand.

Most of the 9 billion chickens produced in the United States each year are raised on factory farms in windowless facilities, with tens of thousands of birds. Crowded conditions have an impact on animal welfare, and can encourage the spread of dangerous bacteria, such as salmonella and campylobacter, which are particularly prevalent in chickens.

A better option: go organic

Costco sells an organic chicken from Kirkland Signature. You will pay more for it. It was $ 2.29 per pound at a Costco in suburban New York in late August, compared to $ 0.99 per pound for the company’s conventionally raised bird. That’s less, on average, than chickens cost in supermarkets across the country: $ 3.67 per pound for organic versus $ 1.25 per pound for conventional chicken.

Chickens that carry the USDA organic label differ from conventionally raised birds in several important ways. First of all, they must be raised without antibiotics. Conventionally raised birds, on the other hand, may be given antibiotics before they become ill to prevent illness, a practice that reduces the effectiveness of antibiotics over time, and can lead to widespread antibiotic resistance. However, you should know that if organic chickens get sick and need antibiotics, organic regulations require the animals to be treated, but their meat cannot be sold as organic.

Also, chickens with the organic label must be fed organic feed, which means that it is produced without pesticides or genetically modified seeds.

Finally, any chicken bearing the USDA organic label is supposed to be raised in slightly more dignified conditions. The Costco spokesperson said the company adheres to Department of Agriculture standards for organic poultry, which means they live in less crowded conditions than conventionally raised chicken, and their organically raised chickens “have access to the outdoors.” . In fact, the USDA guidelines for organic chickens stipulate that birds must receive sunlight, fresh air, shade, and have areas to be active.

However, there are limitations when it comes to animal welfare with the USDA organic label, and it only gets a Fair rating on CR’s Food Label Analysis on that measurement. For example, although birds are supposed to have access to the outdoors, the USDA has not enforced this requirement. Additionally, the organic label does not prohibit poultry farmers from making physical alterations to the animals, such as trimming the chicken’s beak, and it does not cover animal welfare requirements en route to, or there, the poultry trail.

Another good option: Look for chickens raised in decent environments

If you are particularly concerned about animal welfare, look for chickens that are sold with the Certified Humane Raised & Handled label (look for retailers that sell birds with that label), or the Animal Welfare Approved label (look for retailers that carry those birds).

CR rates the Certified Humane Raised & Handled label as Very Good when it comes to the animal welfare of poultry raised for meat, which is higher than the rating we give USDA Organic label poultry on that measurement. While access to the outdoors is not required, the birds are given slightly more space than the industry norm. In addition, the house must be kept free of debris, and the birds must receive environmental enrichment, such as straw bales, to keep them active.

The rule also dictates that poultry farmers are not allowed to leave lights on continuously in poultry houses, preventing birds from sleeping so they eat more and grow faster, a major concern for animal welfare. Also, a company-designated “animal welfare officer” should be on the poultry slaughterhouse to ensure that the birds are in proper condition prior to slaughter to reduce suffering.

The standards for the Animal Welfare Approved seal are even more demanding; is rated Excellent for Animal Welfare by CR food analysts. Birds should be raised in a pasture rather than in a close confinement. If chicken coops are used, natural light and ventilation are required and, as required for the Certified Humane Raised & Handled label, the lights cannot be left on continuously. Additionally, this stamp indicates that painful procedures, such as beak trimming, are prohibited. And the Animal Welfare Approved label requires careful handling and proper condition during the slaughter process.

You can also try buying chicken from a local farmer or at a farmers market, where you can ask about farming practices.

How to prepare your chicken safely

Whichever type of chicken you choose, always practice rigorous hygiene. Even precooked rotisserie chicken can inadvertently become contaminated with germs. The best way to ensure that you are not ingesting dangerous pathogens is to cook (or reheat) your chicken to an internal temperature of 165 ° F. This will ensure that all remaining bacteria have been killed before you start eating.

These are other ways to prevent your chicken from catching germs that can linger and contaminate the rest of your kitchen.

• Wash your hands well with soap and water before and after handling raw chicken.

• Consider using separate cutting boards and utensils for meat and fruits and vegetables so that bacteria from meat do not spread to fruits and vegetables

• Never rinse raw chicken in a sink because this spreads bacteria in the sink and on the surrounding countertops. There is no need to rinse or clean the chicken.

• Always use a clean and fresh plate to serve cooked meat; do not reuse the same plates and utensils that you used to prepare the raw chicken.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2021, Consumer Reports, Inc.

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with the advertisers on this site. Consumer Reports is an independent nonprofit organization that works with consumers to create a just, safe, and healthy world. CR does not endorse products or services and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2021, Consumer Reports, Inc.