Fresh Take: Inside Costco’s $1 Billion Bet On $4.99 Rotisserie Chicken

Food & Drink

Visiting Costco’s rotisserie chicken plant — the first chicken slaughterhouse built in America in years — underscored for me how fragile our food supply is, and how much it will take in coming years to produce food as the climate crisis worsens. The feature, published this morning, is a deep dive into how Costco is shoring up its supply of the iconic product that drives customers in the door. Give it a read!

What’s stuck with me — aside from the sensation of thousands of freshly killed chickens dripping on me as they air-dry — is how during my tour in Fremont, Nebraska last month, I heard about how the operation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Costco called Lincoln Premium Processing, has already overcome huge obstacles. There were massive floods in 2019 that cut off the under-construction plant from roadways, and the pandemic started in the plant’s first month of actual operation. And still, the impact of winter storm Uri in 2021 was the worst blow to Lincoln Premium. The energy grid failing in Texas made headlines at the time, but less-known was how the demand for energy was so over-extended that towns further down the Mississippi River also got less than they needed. There was too much pressure on the overall grid, which supplies power from Minnesota to Texas. Lincoln Premium shut down for a day and a half, and made up the shifts at off-hours later on when the town government deemed there was enough power to go around.

Chilling, and a bigger foreshadowing of what’s to come. Let me know what you think about my rotisserie chicken reporting adventure, and have a great weekend!

— Chloe Sorvino, Staff Writer

Order my book, Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat, out now from Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books.

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What’s Fresh

Inside Costco’s Billion-Dollar Bet On $4.99 Rotisserie Chickens. To ensure a steady supply of the customer favorites, the retailer built a slaughterhouse from scratch in a state better known for its beef, a feat that poultry leader Tyson couldn’t pull off. Forbes got a rare look. By Yours Truly.

What’s The World’s Largest Food Company? Inside the 20th edition of the Forbes Global 2000, the 2023 world’s largest food companies show that rising inflation has kept the food and beverage industry growing around the world. The top 25 companies in the sector generated $1.8 trillion in revenue in the past year, while profits for the sector increased to more than $160 billion. By Yours Truly.

Sophie’s Cuban Has Faced Setbacks But Is Thriving: Welcome To The Topsy Turvy World Of Restaurant Chains. As Gary Stern writes, Sophie’s Cuban was forced to close nine locations over many years including eight in Manhattan, and one in Washington, D.C. Now it owns 11 locations and is looking to expand.

Padma Lakshmi Leaving ‘Top Chef’ After 17 Years And Much Soul Searching. When Season 20 of Top Chef comes to an end on June 8, it will also mark the end for an important ingredient in the competitive culinary series’ success, reports Ree Hines.

Whenever I do a tour like this, I feel a little pressure to eat whatever I’m given, like I’m in my own personal Super Size Me. This time, I was actually tested. Shortly after the full slaughterhouse tour, I visited a farm that raises chickens for Costco. Waiting for me on the back of a pickup truck was a Costco rotisserie chicken, still warm from the spits in the warehouse stores. I sliced off a hunk of breast, and nearly immediately afterwards got suited up per strict avian flu protocols, to see how the chickens grow up.

Chloe Sorvino leads coverage of food and agriculture as a staff writer on the enterprise team at Forbes. Her book, Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat, published on December 6, 2022, with Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books. Her nearly nine years of reporting at Forbes has brought her to In-N-Out Burger’s secret test kitchen, drought-ridden farms in California’s Central Valley, burnt-out national forests logged by a timber billionaire, a century-old slaughterhouse in Omaha and even a chocolate croissant factory designed like a medieval castle in northern France.

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