Summer: Time to Chicken Out!

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Ever since woman invented fire and the wheel, humans have been enjoying meat cooked on the rotisserie. Finally, we have rotisserie chicken at the Co-op. For the past three weeks, the Meat Dept, has offered this tender treat, and shoppers have been receptive. What omnivore can resist the slow-roasted juicy, melt-in-your-mouth delicacy? You might even ask why we didn’t have all of this happiness sooner.

The rotisserie chicken program was introduced with a soft opening and has eased its way into a regular feature that may make customers wonder if it wasn’t there all along. Meat Department manager Nick Bauer has had this in mind for quite some time, but there was a process for it all to come to fruition. Necessary equipment had to be procured. The roaster had to be purchased and installed in the Meat Dept. and the dedicated display case with temperature controls was situated between the Meat and Deli departments. The proper packaging and labeling needed to be designed and, finally, the birds were ordered from Freebird in Pennsylvania.

According to Bauer, the first day of chicken preparation and sales posed some challenges. “Everyone was learning a new process to run the rotisserie.” That day, the Meat Dept. team worked feverishly to prepare and tie the chickens (which were not pre-tied, as they had expected). They started with 20 chickens. The rotisserie oven can roast as many as 15 chickens simultaneously, but usually seven or eight will be prepared at one time to meet the developing demand. The current schedule is to roast three times per day, with chickens emerging from the oven at about 11 AM, 2 PM, and 3 PM. This is the only food that is actually cooked in the Meat Department, and it generates the extra work of meticulously cleaning and maintaining the machine.

Once they come out of the rotisserie machine, the chickens are packaged and labeled for quality assurance. Clock time is marked and the “hot bird” may remain in the case awaiting purchase for up to four hours. Any chickens remaining after four hours are sent to the Deli and served or cooled down safely according to regulations.

The most basic aspect of quality assurance is the chicken itself. Freebird Antibiotic-free Chicken is a few steps above the FDA classification of “natural.” The birds are raised in a stress-free environment and fed a vegetarian diet. They are never given antibiotics, and are minimally processed. They come from the same source as our other poultry products, and meet the same quality standards that Co-op customers demand of any meat they buy.

Many customers are enjoying the convenience of the rotisserie chicken. We wondered if we could have some new recipes and flavors as the program moves forward. Bauer assures us that they are on the way!

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Karla Guererri has been a Co-op Member-Owner for several years. She works in the field of education and lives in Troy.