Thursday, October 6, 2022
Oct. 6, 2022

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5 Clark County grocery store roasted chickens ranked by flavor, price, size

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The bagged chicken is from Fred Meyer, the one in the clamshell is from New Seasons. Grocery store rotisserie chicken is convenient, but not all are created equally.
The bagged chicken is from Fred Meyer, the one in the clamshell is from New Seasons. Grocery store rotisserie chicken is convenient, but not all are created equally. (Rachel Pinsky for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Roasted grocery store chickens provide a quick, convenient and reasonably priced way to feed a family during the hectic moments between the end of the school day and after-school activities.

I tried five roasted chickens from grocery stores throughout Clark County and evaluated them on value and flavor. None of the birds had the crisp skin that chefs and home cooks obsessively seek. When hot chickens are placed in containers, the moisture in the container destroys the crispy skin. Rosauers chicken had a crispy skin because the container was vented, but the loss of moisture led to dry meat.

Online recipes claim that the skin can be crisped by putting the chicken in an air fryer for 5-6 minutes. I didn’t test this method, but I think it’s worth exploring. One of the best things about chicken is that it’s covered in thin fatty skin that transforms into the crisp saltiness of a potato chip when hit with high heat and a generous dose of seasoning.

I sampled the chickens within 30 minutes of their purchase and rated the skin, dark meat and white meat on a 1-5 scale — 1 being the worst and 5 being excellent. Chickens from Costco and Chuck’s tied for first place.

Costco’s roasted bird easily won because it was significantly larger and cheaper ($4.99 for 3 pounds) than the other chickens. It also has plump, tender, well-seasoned meat. Chuck’s chicken tied for first. The bird was smaller and pricier, but tasted as good as Costco’s. Also, customers need to buy an annual membership ($60) to go to Costco, but Chuck’s doesn’t require a fee to enter the store.

The rankings

The chickens below are listed in order of ranking with details about skin, dark meat and white meat.

Costco Wholesale Corp.

  • Winner

3 pound chicken for $4.99.

This chicken — the gold standard for price, size and quality — is designed to bring customers into the warehouse, but doesn’t result in a profit by itself. It’s impossible to raise, process, transport, roast and sell a 3 pound chicken for $5.

The drawback is that a Costco membership is required to get into the warehouse to buy the chicken. In addition, two shareholders recently filed a lawsuit against executives and directors for a breach of their fiduciary duties based on alleged animal welfare violations.

Skin: 4 points, rubbery but flavorful.

Dark meat: 5 points, tender and flavorful.

White meat: 5 points, surprisingly juicy and succulent.

Score: 14 points

Chuck’s Produce & Street Market

  • Winner

1.75 pound chicken for $9.99.

This chicken is significantly smaller than the Costco chicken and twice the price, but just as flavorful. According to the label, these chickens are produced by Pilgrim’s Pride, one of the largest chicken producers in the United States. They’re roasted in small batches at the store so there can be a wait to get them. It took 30 minutes for me to get my chicken.

Skin: 4 points, well seasoned and crispy-ish.

Dark meat: 5 points, nice flavor and a velvety texture.

White meat: 5 points, flavorful and moist for white meat.

Score: 14 points.

Rosauers

Approximately 2 pounds for $8.99.

Weight wasn’t provided on the label, but this chicken appeared to be around 2 pounds. The clamshell container was flat and vented. The release of air helped keep the skin crisp, but the meat was dry.

Skin: 5, the crispiest skin of all the chickens and flavorful.

Dark meat: 2.5, dry but flavorful.

White meat: 2.5, dry but flavorful.

Score: 10 points.

New Seasons Market

Approximately 2 pounds, $10.99.

New Seasons offers hot chickens in the deli section and cold chickens in the cold prepared foods section. The hot and cold chickens are the same price.

Skin: 1, some flavor but rubbery.

Dark meat: 4, tender with good flavor.

White meat: 2.5, slightly tender but mostly dry.

Score: 7.5 points.

Fred Meyer

2 pounds, $8.99

Fred Meyer’s roasted chickens had a Home Chef label. Home Chef is a company based in Chicago, Ill., known for meal kits with pre-portioned ingredients and recipes delivered to subscribers’ homes. Fred Meyer also sold cold, reduced priced ($5.39) chickens.

This chicken had a very rubbery skin and an unpleasant aroma. Some of the dark meat was tender, but other parts were rubbery. The white meat was dry and chewy.

Skin: 0, rubbery and flavorless with a strange aroma.

Dark meat: 2, tender, but rubbery in parts.

White meat: 1, dry and chewy.

Score: 3 points.

I reached out to the public relations departments at the stores where I purchased chickens. Kroger (which owns Fred Meyer) returned my email and asked what I was interested in finding out, but didn’t provide answers to my questions about sourcing and preparation of these birds. Costco, Chuck’s and Rosauers didn’t respond to my inquiry.

New Seasons replied that the store sells Mary’s Free Range Chickens from Pitman Family Farms, which provides details about its animal-welfare practices on its website.

A couple of stores (Fred Meyer and Chuck’s) had packaging that named the companies that produced the chickens but didn’t provide any real information about animal welfare or environmental sustainability. Poultry processing in the United States is overwhelmingly controlled by a handful of companies that have faced criticism on these issues. If any of them was doing something special that distinguished them in these areas, I think they would use that information to help sell their products.

Two shareholders sued Costco, accusing the company of violating animal-welfare laws in its quest for cheap birds. Nonetheless, my first choice for a roasted chicken will still be Costco given the limited information available to consumers about practices in the poultry industry. It’s difficult to make a truly informed decision. Costco’s roasted chickens are large, delicious, inexpensive and something I can grab while buying other groceries and home goods.

It took decades to develop the conventional market for chickens in the United States. It will take at least as long to create a local food system that provides the value and convenience of a roasted grocery store chicken. I look forward to the day that my neighborhood grocery store offers roasted chickens from Clark County farms that I can visit to see that they treat their animals, their workers and their land with care. I’d even be willing to pay more. Until then, I’ll rely on a $4.99 roasted chicken to get a quick and inexpensive dinner on the table.

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