The first pullet barn constructed in Nebraska for Costco/Lincoln Premium Poultry belongs to a young farmer named Colton Schafersman. (Photo courtesy of Lincoln Premium Poultry.)
Can a single company reshape a landscape? That’s the question at play in Nebraska, where Costco, one of America’s most powerful companies, has the potential to impact residents, farmers, and the environment in complex and unprecedented ways.
At the center of the move is the company’s $4.99 rotisserie chicken. In 2014, Costco reported selling 78 million of these processed, four-pound birds a year. In order to guarantee a steady supply and maintain the price, Costco fixed its eye on Nebraska as the best place to start raising and processing its own supply of chickens, and “break free of the monopoly” held by companies such as Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride, much like it did for sausage and hotdogs with its Kirkland plant in Tracy, California.
In June, the company broke ground on a giant new poultry processing facility in Fremont, about an hour wast of Omaha. The plant will process more than 2 million chickens a week, or more than 100 million birds a year, and provide as much as 43 percent of Costco’s rotisserie chickens, as well as around one third of the raw birds it sells.
The effort will also include a feed mill and over 500 giant barns in which to raise the broilers, the hens, and the pullets, or parents used to breed the broilers. Costco needs to recruit around 125 farmers to build and fund chicken barns within a 100-mile radius, and it’s contracting with Lincoln Premium Poultry (LPP), a “company created for Costco in collaboration with Costco” that sprang up in 2016 to take over the business of working with farmers and building the infrastructure.
As the biggest competitor with Whole Foods, selling $4 billion in organic foods, Costco has been wooing shoppers who care about the source of their food for years. (In fact, the company just announced that it would tighten its standards around antibiotic use in all the meat it supplies thanks in part to an ongoing effort by shareholder activists). So, to say there’s a lot at stake with this new venture is an understatement. 12-09-18
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