Chesapeake Rotisserie Chicken from Giant Food (Deb Lindsey/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

The rotisserie chickens at Giant, Safeway, Food Lion, Wegmans and Boston Market all have something in common besides convenience: the same kind of packaging.

The two-part, black-and-clear, bumper-car-shaped containers are made by Anchor Packaging of St. Louis, Mo. Vice president of communications Michael Thayler says his company was the first to come up with the now-ubiquitous design, some 15 years after the birds became a take-home hit. It produces close to 200 million each year.

Foil bags, paper bags and the flexible polypropylene sacks that house some rotisserie chickens tout their environmental friendliness. But Anchor’s not sold on them yet, because in those designs, the bird sits in its own grease and juices.

Both of Anchor’s rigid-plastic halves are made of polypropylene, which is recyclable (No. 5) and can literally take the heat of a store display as well as that of microwaves and dishwashing machines. Consumers reuse the containers; sometimes even as makeshift terrariums, we’re told.

“We have reengineered over the life the of product more times than we can count, and will continue to do so,” Thayler says, referring in part to adjustments in the fit and venting of the lid, to make it leakproof; in the bottom section’s grooves, which allow the chicken to sit above any accumulated liquids; and in blending an FDA-approved additive called Clear-Guard into the plastic used to manufacture the domed lids — which is not the same as the silicone-based product used to de-fog mirrors and windowshields.

Still, the inevitable effect that steaming has on the chicken’s intially crisp exterior remains a drawback.

While the lids are polypropylene, Anchor’s black bases are made with some calcium carbonate — limestone, basically — mixed in. This reduces the amount of resin used overall, a green effort the company initiated six years ago.


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