May 27, 2022 - Economy

Chicken is getting more expensive, unless it's rotisserie

rotisserie chicken for sale at BJ's Wholesale Club

BJ's Wholesale Club, like Costco, has maintained its $4.99 rotisserie chicken price despite inflation. Photo: Kelly Tyko, Axios

While inflation has taken a bite out of household budgets and food prices continue to skyrocket, the price of beloved wholesale club rotisserie chicken has remained the same.

Why it matters: Even as chicken prices nationwide have increased 16.4% in the last year, Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club have maintained the price of their rotisserie chickens.

  • The cooked chickens cost $4.99 at Costco and BJ's, and $5 at Sam's Club.
  • The low chicken prices help drive shoppers into the clubs and retailers bank on them loading up the cart.
  • Costco officials said Thursday that membership costs will not increase at this time nor will the price of the hot dog combo sold in club food courts.

What's happening: The Consumer Price Index rose 0.3% in April and was up 8.3% from a year earlier, the Labor Department said May 11. The previous year-over-year inflation had been 8.5%.

  • Poultry prices are predicted to increase between 8.5% and 9.5% this year, while egg prices are expected to increase between 19.5% and 20.5% because of the bird flu, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a recent food price outlook.
  • Costco, which has a $450 million poultry processing plant in Nebraska, sold more than 106 million rotisserie chickens last year, CNN reported.

What they're saying: BJ's CEO Bob Eddy said during a May 19 earnings call that the $4.99 chicken is an example where the retailer hasn’t “moved off the price, given double-digit inflation in that particular item just because it's such a meaningful thing to our members.”

  • Costco officials didn’t talk about chicken during Thursday’s earnings call, but Bob Nelson, a company senior vice president, said “historically high inflation” is having a “burden” on its members and all consumers.
  • In May 2021, Richard Galanti, the wholesale club's chief financial officer, said there had been some inflationary pressure on the rotisserie chicken and that it was "impacting our margins a little."

Reality check: While wholesale clubs' rotisserie chicken prices are lower than elsewhere, the retailers normally display the hot chickens at the back of the clubs to encourage consumers to walk around and buy more.

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