Why Is Costco's Rotisserie Chicken So Cheap?

iStock.com/LauriPatterson
iStock.com/LauriPatterson

Rotisserie chicken is a quick, easy meal with frequent leftovers. Couple that with the fact that Costco's ready-to-eat version costs less than raw chicken, and it might be tempting to give up cooking altogether. So why exactly does Costco's four-pound bird cost a paltry sum of $4.99, and why don't they raise the price?

When Barclays analyst Meredith Adler asked Costco CFO Richard Galanti this question in 2015, he responded, "I can only tell you what history has shown us: When others were raising their chicken prices from $4.99 to $5.99, we were willing to eat, if you will, $30 to $40 million a year in gross margin by keeping it at $4.99. That's what we do for a living."

In other words, it's their business philosophy—plain and simple. (The company has the same rule about keeping their concession hot dogs and soda at an inflation-ignoring $1.50.) Some were skeptical, though. According to Money, a more likely explanation is that the chicken is a "loss leader" that's meant to lure customers into the store later in the day—especially around dinner time. The hope is that these hungry customers will pick up a few other items they wouldn't have bought otherwise. As CNBC points out, that's why the rotisserie chicken counters are strategically located at the back of the store.

One other theory is that Costco sometimes has a high supply of chickens, and instead of throwing them away when they're about to expire, they cook them and sell them as ready-to-eat food. After all, making less money is better than making no money at all. "What's more, if the rotisserie chickens don't sell, the meat can be used in soup, chicken salad, and other profitable deli items," Money writes.

Whatever the exact reason, Costco is going to great lengths to hold its prices steady. According to Eater, the company will be launching its very own chicken farming operation in Nebraska. That way, it will no longer be entirely dependent on the chicken "monopoly" dominated by companies like Tyson and Perdue, whose prices have increased in recent years. Costco plans to raise 100 million chickens annually, which will supply them with 43 percent of the poultry needed for its rotisserie chicken counter, as well as one-third of the raw birds needed to stock the meat section. The company has already broken ground on a poultry processing facility in Fremont, Nebraska (roughly an hour outside of Omaha), and it also plans to construct a feed mill and over 500 barns.

It looks like families will continue serving up $5 rotisserie chicken for some time to come.

[h/t Eater]

Why Do We Eat Candy on Halloween?

Jupiterimages/iStock via Getty Images
Jupiterimages/iStock via Getty Images

On October 31, hordes of children armed with Jack-o'-lantern-shaped buckets and pillow cases will take to the streets in search of sugar. Trick-or-treating for candy is synonymous with Halloween, but the tradition had to go through a centuries-long evolution to arrive at the place it is today. So how did the holiday become an opportunity for kids to get free sweets? You can blame pagans, Catholics, and candy companies.

Historians agree that a Celtic autumn festival called Samhain was the precursor to modern Halloween. Samhain was a time to celebrate the last harvest of the year and the approach of the winter season. It was also a festival for honoring the dead. One way Celtics may have appeased the spirits they believed still walked the Earth was by leaving treats on their doorsteps.

When Catholics infiltrated Ireland in the 1st century CE, they rebranded many pagan holidays to fit their religion. November 1 became the “feasts of All Saints and All Souls," and the day before it was dubbed "All-Hallows'-Eve." The new holidays looked a lot different from the original Celtic festival, but many traditions stuck around, including the practice of honoring the dead with food. The food of choice for Christians became "soul cakes," small pastries usually baked with expensive ingredients and spices like currants and saffron.

Instead of leaving them outside for passing ghosts, soul cakes were distributed to beggars who went door-to-door promising to pray for souls of the deceased in exchange for something to eat. Sometimes they wore costumes to honor the saints—something pagans originally did to avoid being harassed by evil spirits. The ritual, known as souling, is believed to have planted the seeds for modern-day trick-or-treating.

Souling didn't survive the holiday's migration from Europe to the United States. In America, the first Halloween celebrations were a way to mark the end-of-year harvest season, and the food that was served mainly consisted of homemade seasonal treats like caramel apples and mixed nuts. There were no soul cakes—or candies, for that matter—to be found.

It wasn't until the 1950s that trick-or-treating gained popularity in the U.S. Following the Great Depression and World War II, the suburbs were booming, and people were looking for excuses to have fun and get to know their neighbors. The old practice of souling was resurrected and made into an excuse for kids to dress up in costumes and roam their neighborhoods. Common trick-or-treat offerings included nuts, coins, and homemade baked goods ("treats" that most kids would turn their noses up at today).

That changed when the candy companies got their hands on the holiday. They had already convinced consumers that they needed candy on Christmas and Easter, and they were looking for an equally lucrative opportunity to market candy in the fall. The new practice of trick-or-treating was almost too good to be true. Manufacturers downsized candies into smaller, bite-sized packages and began marketing them as treats for Halloween. Adults were grateful to have a convenient alternative to baking, kids loved the sweet treats, and the candy companies made billions.

Today, it's hard to imagine Halloween without Skittles, chocolate bars, and the perennial candy corn debates. But when you're digging through a bag or bowl of Halloween candy this October, remember that you could have been having eating soul cakes instead.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Make Your Own Mouthwatering Pizza With Tomatoes From Frank Pepe’s

eugenesergeev/iStock via Getty Images
eugenesergeev/iStock via Getty Images

If you live in a rural area, the hunt for a quality slice of pizza—especially at a late hour—can be enough to make you consider moving to a pizza capital like New York. But what if you had the secret ingredient for a perfect pie right in your own kitchen?

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Italiana, the iconic New Haven establishment recently crowned America’s best pizzeria, is selling cans of its hand-selected tomatoes that you can purchase online or at any of its locations across Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York.

Like any good "secret" ingredient, the tomatoes that Frank Pepe’s chefs use in their critically acclaimed sauces are a little different than your regular grocery store pickings. Food & Wine reports that each year, Frank Pepe’s grandsons (now restaurant co-owners) conduct a blind taste test of several different tomato varieties harvested from farms in Naples, Italy, and decide which ones are worthy of being used in their pizza products. According to the pizzeria's website, “It’s not just a matter of taste, but of the tomatoes’ density, texture, and transition of flavor once they are cooked.”


View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana (@frankpepepizza) on

Of course, there’s more than one reason Frank Pepe’s pizzas are considered the gold standard in America. To achieve that famous “crisp, charred, chewy crust,” the pizzas are baked in a coal-fired oven rather than a wood-burning one. There’s also the fact that Frank Pepe and his ancestors have been perfecting the Neapolitan art of pizza-making for nearly a century (the pizzeria was founded in 1925). In other words: Don’t be disappointed if your first crack at a heavenly homemade pizza doesn’t come out exactly like the mouthwatering pictures on Frank Pepe’s website. Having said that, the magic of hand-chosen Naples tomatoes is sure to make your creation considerably better than any of its frozen, store-bought brethren.

You can order a pack of three cans of tomatoes for $10 here.

[h/t Food & Wine]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER