What happens to unsold roast chickens at Coles, Woolworths and Costco?

There's a reason why the classic bachelor's handbag is so fresh.

A roast chicken (left) and Costco and Coles and Woolworths signs (right).
How long can supermarket rotisserie chickens be left out, and what happens to them once their shelf life is exceeded? Photo: Woolworths/Getty

There are few things as quintessentially Australian as a hot roast chook — perhaps better known by their colloquial nickname, the "bachelor’s handbag". If you’ve spent any time in Aussie supermarkets, you’ll likely be familiar with the tantalising scent of succulent rotisserie chickens lined up under the deli heat lamps.

Yes, it’s just roast chicken. But for time-poor Australians battling a cost of living crisis, the bachelor’s handbag represents so much more. It’s dinner for the whole family in a pinch, a grab-and-go feed, easy meal prep solution, or a tasty filling for sandwiches to enjoy at the footy — all for just $12 or less.

Arguably the best part of the classic roast chook, however, is its freshness. In fact, no hot bird is left on supermarket shelves for longer than four hours. So what actually happens to those that don’t get sold once they exceed their shelf life?


Despite what you might think, leftover rotisserie chooks are not just discarded as waste. Most supermarkets will actually do everything they can to ensure the bin is the absolute last place the chickens will end up!

As an example, Coles repurposes any unsold roast chickens as part of their mission to reduce food wastage. The supermarket conglomerate told Yahoo Australia that it donated nearly 20,000 tonnes (39 million meals) of unsold edible food to food rescue organisations such as SecondBite and Foodbank last financial year.

“As a food retailer, we certainly don’t want food going to waste,” a Coles spokesperson said. “If our Hot Roast Chickens haven’t sold as close of business approaches, our stores nationally have the discretion to reduce the price of hot chooks so that they are more likely to sell and be enjoyed for a cheaper price rather than being wasted.”

Coles roast chicken in a packet (left) and a roast chicken on a wooden cutting board (right).
Coles reduces the price before repurposing any leftover roast chicken. Photo: Coles/Getty

As for any leftover chicken, the remaining marked-down stock is shredded and sold by the kilo as the "shredded chicken" you’ll see in the refrigerated deli section. It’s still perfectly good quality chicken and easy to add into meals like sangas, tacos or pasta!

Yahoo Lifestyle understands that the markdown for unsold Coles Hot Roast Chickens begins once they’ve been on the shelf for three and a half hours. After four hours, they’re removed from sale.

This protocol adheres to the guidelines from Safe Food Australia published by Food Standards Australia & New Zealand, which stipulates that hot food (such as roast chickens) can only remain on shelves for a maximum of four hours.

Woolworths told Yahoo that they also took a similar approach to be in line with the food safety guidelines.

“Our hot roast chickens are one of our most popular products and because we work hard to ensure we have our chooks ready for customers when they need them, any wastage is minimal,” a Woolworths spokesperson explained.


“We make sure our chickens are available on the shelf during busy shopping periods like after school and around dinner time. Given their popularity, the majority of our chickens cooked each day are purchased by our customers.”

While the two Aussie supermarket giants are the most common sources of the beloved bachelor’s handbag, you can also get whole rotisserie chickens from Australian outlets of the American wholesale retailer Costco.

Known for its cheap wholesale prices, a roast chook from Costco will only set you back $7! That is, of course, if you have an existing membership with the supermarket.

Costco hot roast chicken display.
Costco also sells hot roast chooks. Photo: Getty

The franchise recently explained that any leftover rotisserie chicken meat was repurposed for an assortment of chicken-based dishes at the deli in its US outposts. But how does this protocol differ in Australia?

Rather than repurposing leftover meat, Costco Australia country manager Chris Tingman said that the rotisserie chooks at Aussie stores are actually continuously cooked all day to ensure a steady offering of fresh, hot chicken.

“Chickens that are nearing the end of the hot holder time frame are placed in our blast chiller to cool down and be sold in our refrigerated case at a reduced price,” Tingman added. “Not only does this process aid quality control and food safety, it also helps to reduce food waste.”

So if you’re looking for a cheap option for your next dinner, don't forget to look out for discounted shelves and fridges. The chicken might not be as hot and fresh, but it’s still safe to eat — and will come at a bargain price!

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