Ken points out the new quality-control
areas created exclusively for Costco. One is
located at the end of each processing line.
Here, additional personnel retrim and grade
each Kirkland Signature chicken part before it
is ;ash-frozen. I notice that many pieces don’t
make the Costco cut.
Slower process = higher quality
The tour starts with the number-one
seller in Costco warehouse freezers: 99 percent fat-free Kirkland Signature uncooked,
boneless, skinless frozen chicken breasts.
;e assembly line runs like clockwork.
About 230 highly skilled cutters debone and
skin the breasts by hand. Excess fat is
removed, followed by sorting and sizing by
hand. Inspectors are positioned along the
line, as are quality-assurance and computerized weight stations.
We examine the ;nal product. True to
Costco’s new requirements, there is no more
than a 2-ounce variance per breast; meat
edges are clean, with little fat; and workmanship is exceptional, with each breast full and
Scott notes, “;ey slowed down the line
speed and added more employees in order to
meet our requirements. I believe we are the
;rst to ask for and receive such extra care.”
;is same attention to detail is found
throughout the plant. In the case of skinless
chicken tenderloins, the line normally processes 8,000 pounds per hour, but the line is
slowed to just 1,500 pounds per hour when
handling Kirkland Signature. Each piece is
selected and sized by hand.
As for the new Kirkland Signature boneless, skinless chicken thighs, the di;erence in
quality between a traditional thigh and the
new Costco product is remarkable. I’m shown
samples of each. ;e USDA Grade A Kirkland
Signature thigh has much less excess fat and a
much cleaner shape.
Our last stop is chicken wings. A balanced number of plump drummettes and ;at
sections are incorporated. Wingtips (which
add inedible weight), excess skin, protruding
bones and miscuts are not allowed.
Good taste, naturally
Federal regulations prohibit the use of
added hormones and steroids in chicken. All
Kirkland Signature chicken is natural and
minimally processed, with no arti;cial ingredients, preservatives, chicken broth or binders, such as cornstarch or sodium tripoly-phosphate. However, I do note that the
boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tenderloins and thighs do include an 8 percent
Ken explains, “We tested out raw, frozen
chicken ranging from no added moisture all
the way up to the industry standard of 15 per-
cent. We found that an 8 percent solution of
water and kosher salt helps maintain natural
flavor, retains the moisture normally lost
through the freezing and thawing process,
and allows for fewer overcooking errors.”
To thaw or not to thaw
Arriving back at the o;ce, I inspect the
new packaging and read “;; ;;;; ;; ;;;;
;;;;;; ;;;;;;;.” Skeptical, I go home and
thaw two Kirkland Signature boneless, skinless chicken breasts overnight in the refrigerator, and leave two frozen. ;e next night,
the hubby grills all four concurrently. ;e
frozen breasts cook up moist and in fact taste
better than the thawed pieces.
JUNE 2010 ;e Costco Connection 75
The value adds up
Regarding value, I count this many di;er-ent ways. Chicken is a good source of protein.
Quality is now assured, with Kirkland
Signature’s many gatekeepers overseeing each
step, including continuous testing at the warehouse level. And potential waste is reduced,
thanks to the 180-day use-by date stamped on
As for savings, Kirkland Signature frozen
boneless skinless chicken breasts, priced at
about $2.58 per pound (the price may vary
due to shipping costs), provide savings of up
to almost $3 per pound versus many grocers’
fresh o;erings and up to $2.60 per pound in
savings compared to other frozen breasts.
I wonder out loud if other retailers are
also moving toward tougher standards in the
production of uncooked, frozen chicken, and
Ken answers, “As far as we know, we are the
only ones doing this. Grading is voluntary,
and most retailers are satis;ed with top Grade
A, but not Costco. We wanted, and now are,
the gold standard.”
Only at Costco is uncooked, frozen
chicken cool again. C