Rotisserie chickens have been around for a while. I used to bypass them and roast my own, until I noticed something: The rotisserie chickens were actually cheaper than buying and roasting my own.
Cat Vasko noticed the same thing and decided to figure out why. The answer makes a surprising amount of sense: Grocery stores make them out of unsold chicken that is about to pass its expiration date. It's an elegant way to make a profit out of food that would otherwise be a net loss. And it's not just chicken -- according to Vasko, the ever-expanding prepared-foods section of the supermarket uses up all sorts of unsold produce and meat. It is, as she says, a bit like hunter-gatherers using every inch of the animal.
This is the sort of thing that no one talks about when they talk about innovation --and yet, it's a major way in which our economy has become more efficient over the last few decades. Reducing spoilage means grocery stores can sell us raw chickens at lower prices -- and that we can get fresh, delicious prepared food at even lower prices. It's a win for the grocer and the consumer.
So the next time you hear someone talk about the innovation economy, don't just think of Facebook or Google. The folks who spit-roast chickens, streamline factory production, or think up any of a million ways to save a little money here and there are just as important in improving our standard of living. Especially when it's five minutes to 7 and you still haven't made anything for dinner.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.
To contact the author on this story:
Megan McArdle at email@example.com
To contact the editor on this story:
Brooke Sample at firstname.lastname@example.org