The same price for a decade, the rotisserie chicken at Costco is still $4.99.
It reminded me of the Model-T.
Although chicken prices are way up, still rotisserie chickens remain cheap:
Confirming their commitment to the low price, a Costco executive cited the Nebraska chicken processing plant that they built in 2019, their cheaper packaging, and the better ovens they bought.
I added the 2021 bar on the following graph to display global sales of 100 million:
Rotisserie chicken mass production reminded me of the Model-T Ford.
Using conveyor belts that streamed parts to the worker, Henry Ford reduced chassis production time from 12 hours to 2.3. As a result, output soared and per car cost plunged. By the mid-1920s, the lowest priced Model-T was $260. Suddenly affordable, the car attracted millions of buyers:
Our Bottom Line: Externalities
Chickens and cars both create positive externalities.
The story of the rotisserie chicken starts during the mid-1980s. With more women in the labor force, dinner became ever more difficult. The solution came from a new chain called Boston Market. Realizing that working moms would have loved to buy a “home cooked” meal, the founders of Boston Market invented the rotisserie chicken. From there, it made sense to add some mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and squash.
Now it sounds so normal. But then, the rotisserie chicken was revolutionary.
As economists, we could say that the rotisserie chicken created many positive externalities. Defined as a ripple of benefits that flow from a distant decision, positive externalities impact many of us. They include how one person’s decision to be vaccinated can prevent strangers from getting sick. It could be a home sale that results because a neighbor mowed the lawn.
With a rotisserie chicken, the list of positive externalities is long. It was created because women started to join the labor force. But then, the externalities that flowed from it ranged from the benefits of a healthy meal to letting working moms get more sleep, to that crispy chicken aroma in your kitchen.
As for a Model-T externality, we could add the car’s descendants that eventually let us pick up the chicken.
My sources and more: Thanks to The Journal podcast for alerting me to the inflation-proof rotisserie chicken. Then, WSJ had more cheap chicken facts. Please note also that several of today’s sentences about the Model T were from a previous econlife post.