RULING THE ROOST: Being at the Top of the Pecking Order Is Not All It’s Cracked up to Be

Chickens are rich in protein and puns.

JANUARY 8, 2017 — “Why did the chicken cross the road?” It’s an old riddle. The listener expects a simple twist or clever punchline — perhaps a little fowl play of words  —  but the straight answer is, “To get to the other side.”


Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject

Today, the modern spin on the old joke could be, “Why does Costco put its rotisserie chickens at the back of the store?” The truth is, Costco is hoping you will fill your shopping cart with other items on the way to picking up your $4.99 chicken.


That chicken is the centerpiece — the holy quail — of a retail marketing strategy to get consumers to complement their bargain bird with pricier sides, like hummus, bulgur salad a bottle of wine. The strategy is working. Costco’s stock is up 17% in the last year.


Altogether in 2017, 87 million Costco chickens crossed the road to the checkout stand and onto our lunch and dinner plates, about 14% of the nation’s total.


Because consumers continue to flock to the rotisserized roosters (and hens), Costco is building a $300 million chicken-processing plant in Nebraska. Far from ruffling any feathers, the move is designed to help Costco further trim its supply-chain costs so it can continue to offer its rotisserie chickens for $4.99.


The biggest loser in the country’s hunger-panging passion for poultry is the chicken, of course. Commercial breeders get can get them from hatchling to slaughter in as few as four weeks. Plumper chickens require 11 weeks.


What’s the moral of our story? Maybe always trying to get to the other side isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!