Kirkland Chicken Chunks Vs Just Bare Chicken Chunks

Try walking into Costco and asking where the Kirkland chicken chunks are. The nearest customer service rep may squeal with enthusiasm and gush about how great they are — "They taste the same as Just Bare! Everyone loved them when we sampled them last weekend!" Ask a manager if the two products are manufactured by the same company, and he'll wink and say, "No one can be sure." The people selling Kirkland chicken chunks seem to want consumers to believe the two products are identical. Customers long to know whether it's true.

The chicken nugget furor at the warehouse club started just a few years ago. Costco began stocking Just Bare chicken bites in 2020, and shoppers loved them. The product was exclusive to Costco's shelves, and Redditors enthusiastically described how the nuggets tasted just like those from fast food chain Chick-fil-A but for a fraction of the price. Numerous TikTok taste tests comparing the two popped up. The product was so popular that the warehouse couldn't keep its freezers stocked, and buyers faced shortages in 2021. Costco recently added a new product to its shelves — chicken breast chunks by Kirkland Signature, Costco's store brand.

Both types stand out when compared to many other varieties of chicken nuggets because of the quality of meat in them. The two go light on the breading and have similar nutrition as well. When you compare one to the other, though, a clear difference in taste and price becomes evident.

What are Just Bare chicken bites?

Just Bare's packaging conveys the message that these chicken pieces are healthy and natural. The company's logo includes a green leaf. The bag boldly states the poultry for this product hasn't ever been treated with antibiotics, steroids, or hormones, and the bites include no artificial ingredients or preservatives. It's meat and nothing else — just plain chicken.

Here's some context: Chicken nuggets have a bad rap. Chef Jamie Oliver once cut up a chicken in front of grade-school kids. He took the skin, bones, and fat and ground them up. He then pushed the mush through a sieve, producing the homemade equivalent of mechanically separated poultry (MSP). The world-famous chef then formed the resulting goop into nugget shapes and breaded them. He asked if the kids would still eat the dish after knowing how factories produced it. The allure of the breaded treats was too strong — most said they would.

Kids might accept MSP, but their parents don't always agree. This is where Just Bare comes in. These chunks or bites — note that the packaging deftly avoids using the word "nuggets" — contain only boneless chicken breast. That's attractive to all the parents out there who're toeing the line between getting their picky eaters to put something in their mouths, but also wanting littles to consume healthy products. The company knows its target consumer, and the success of this product on Costco's shelves shows its marketing paid off. Plus, they taste great.

What are Kirkland chicken chunks?

Kirkland chicken breast chunks copycat Just Bare's product, probably hoping to piggyback on the success of the healthier-than-normal-nuggets messaging to families. The declarations on the bag are similar: no antibiotics, no hormones, and no steroids. Consumers can see at first glance that these aren't MSP, but rather whole chunks of chicken breast, as well. Finally, it's probably not coincidental that Costco's store brand uses a slightly darker color of green than Just Bare does in its label — the packaging is eerily similar.

The fact that Just Bare chicken chunks largely disappeared from Costco's shelves — they may still be available from Costco Business online — just before the warehouse started selling the Kirkland Signature copycat product is a bit suspicious. Consumers might surmise that the contract between the retail giant and Just Bare came to a close or that the two reached an alternative deal. So far, no hard evidence of anything sneaky has come to light, though. The only thing Costco shoppers know is, if they used to buy Just Bare, they'll probably be buying the Kirkland copycat chicken chunks from now on.

Kirkland chicken chunks are more salty, spicy

Pull a tray of Kirkland Signature lightly breaded chicken breast chunks out of the oven, and the aroma is so tempting that it's hard to wait for them to cool. The breading looks delightfully crispy and darker than the Just Bare bites.

These are meant to be finger food — most chunks are about the size of a cotton ball. The largest pieces are just double that, while the smallest are fingernail-sized. The variety in dimension is no problem — little hands can grab them easily anyhow. Best of all, kids can easily dunk them into a sauce bowl and get them to their mouths without making too big of a mess. You won't need many plates or dishes to serve these for dinner.

Once you've popped one into your mouth, though, you'll discover they're salty to the max — so much so it's hard to taste the chicken. The spices are also strong, leaving a not unpleasant aftertaste in your mouth long after dinner's finished. Since this product is meant for children, who often prefer blander foods, these attention-drawing flavors could be a problem. Whether or not you find Kirkland's spice mix agreeable is ultimately a matter of personal choice, though. Some Redditors have sung praises to Kirkland chunks and said that these are also similar to Chick-fil-A's. One commenter, for example, recommends misting them with pickle juice before baking to make them identical to the ones you order at the chain.

Just Bare chicken bites are more subtle

Just Bare chicken bites are more delicate and subtle than Kirkland's chunks. First, when they're finished baking, you'll notice the breading is lighter in color. That allows certain spots to brown, making them more visually appealing. The size and shape are nearly indistinguishable from their Kirkland cousins, although perhaps slightly more uniform. They're equally fun to pick up with fingers and dip in sauce.

The flavor marks the true difference between the brands, though. Just Bare bites are salty, but not as salty-tasting as Kirkland's chunks. Then, these have just enough spice on them to keep from being bland, but not so much that it's obvious. If you find the lack of spice in these off-putting, you could always try Just Bare's spicy variety of breaded chicken bites. Most importantly, you can tell these are made from chicken because you can taste it in them. Note that these chicken bites may be more appealing to picky eaters because of their less pronounced flavor. Finally, the texture demonstrates that Just Bare truly uses breast meat to make them. You can see the meat fibers when you cut one down the middle. These will take slightly more chewing than nuggets made with mechanically separated chicken, but that's probably a good thing.

Kirkland chunks are cheaper

The price of Kirkland chunks beats Just Bare bites. Costco sells a 4-pound bag for about $14 — around $3.50 a pound. At other grocery stores, a pound and a half of Just Bare's product costs about $11, or more than $7 per pound. That's twice the price for something very similar. Of course, shoppers need a $60 Costco membership to visit the warehouse, so the lower price is only useful to people who already have one. Think about this: You'd have to buy around 17 pounds of Kirkland chicken chunks to justify the price of a Gold Star card. That's more breaded chicken than most people need.

The higher price of Just Bare bites is recent, though. Some Redditors remember a far-off time when a 4-pound bag of the company's chicken chunks cost about $13 at the warehouse store. Then, inflation happened, and the price rose to $18 and later $24, according to the memory of one commenter. That's a brutal increase in price over the three years since Costco began selling Just Bare. Costco is famous for having one of the smallest markups in the retail industry — just around 14%-15%, according to The Wall Street Journal. That wasn't low enough to keep the price of Just Bare down, though. Some people might conjecture that the company started making a Kirkland version of this popular product to have more control over the price.

Kirkland chunks are easier to find (sometimes)

Which kind of chicken chunks you can find will depend on where you live. For example, you'll have to live near a Costco to buy the ones from the Kirkland brand — they aren't available from the warehouse website for now. If you do have a Costco in your area, driving over and picking up a bag of chicken breast chunks is simple since the warehouse seems to have an interminable stock.

The stores that sell Just Bare in person aren't as reliable. The company's website indicates where to buy its lightly breaded bites, but you'll have to call and ask the retailers near you if they have them in stock at any given moment. Two places that could carry them include Kroger and Gordon Food Service. If you're determined to buy your chicken breast bites online, Just Bare is available. You can order packages from Wild Fork Foods, for example.

Just Bare's other breaded chicken products are easier to find reliably in specific stores. For example, Costco still stocks Just Bare's breaded chicken breast patties while Sam's Club offers 3 pounds of Just Bare breaded chicken strips for about $16. These products are similar in taste and texture to chicken breast bites.

You'll never know where Kirkland and Just Bare get their chicken from

Neither Just Bare nor Kirkland is transparent about where their chicken meat comes from. If you wanted to find the farms that raise their poultry, it wouldn't be easy. Insofar as animal treatment, Just Bare appears to have a better track record than Costco. It received an Excellent Animal Welfare Certification from American Humane in 2021. To get this award, the company allowed open and independent inspection of its farms. Of course, the American Humane website specifies that this award only went to a select product — broiler chickens. That means the birds used for chicken bites may have been raised under less humane conditions.

Costco, on the other hand, may already have a black mark on its record. In 2019, the company opened a chicken processing plant in Nebraska to maintain a steady supply for its famed $5 rotisserie chickens, but the organization Legal Impact for Chickens alleges the conditions there are poor. In 2022, it filed a lawsuit against the warehouse giant, claiming that many of the birds suffered neglect, having been bred too large to stand on their legs or feed themselves. Allegedly, the disabled poultry frequently fall ill and slowly die of hunger. Those chickens are not necessarily the ones used to make Kirkland chicken chunks, though.

If you feel worried about animal cruelty, you probably shouldn't buy either product. Get a whole chicken from a local farmer, and make your own nuggets.

Kirkland chicken breast chunks have less fat

If you flip over bags of Kirkland and Just Bare, you'll see that Kirkland's product is slightly healthier. First, a 3-ounce serving of Costco's chunks contains 140 calories and 5 grams of fat. Just Bare bites have slightly more, with 160 calories and 6 grams of fat in the same serving size. The cholesterol and sodium amounts are higher in Just Bare's bites as well. That's 50 milligrams versus 45 milligrams of cholesterol and 540 milligrams versus 530 milligrams of sodium.

The difference isn't much, but if you need to carefully watch any of these numbers, Kirkland's chicken breast chunks will likely appeal to you more than Just Bare bites. If you happen to eat more than one serving (and you probably will since 3 ounces isn't much), you'll find that small difference in sodium, cholesterol, and fat will add up quickly.

The ingredients lists for the two products are identical. Reassuringly, the top ingredient is boneless chicken breast, and there are no hard-to-understand chemicals in either product. Both companies use paprika and celery seed to season their bites.

Kirkland and Just Bare are equally easy to make

Ease of preparation is a big motivator for buying breaded chicken chunks, whether or not they come from Costco. Open the bag, pour them onto an tray, and bake for 20 minutes. Voila — you have a protein-packed dinner that most people in your family will want to eat. There aren't many other foods that are the same combination of easy, fast, likable, and moderately nutritious.

The oven isn't the only way to prepare this dish, though. Both Kirkland and Just Bare include instructions for cooking their products in the microwave or air fryer. The microwave is the fastest option, taking just 2.5 minutes, but you'll lose all of the crunch. Most people don't want a soggy chicken nugget, so skip this option, except in the direst situation (i.e. crying, cranky toddlers desperate for lunch). Chicken bites will take between eight and 10 minutes in an air fryer and get a fantastic crunch, but if you don't have such an appliance, the oven takes around double the time. Kirkland asks that people bake their chunks for a shorter amount of time at a higher temperature while Just Bare suggests longer baking at a lower temperature. Either method works just fine. Be careful, though: Piling too many nuggets on at once can result in limp nuggets. Taking the time to spread them around on the pan with about a half inch between each piece ensures browning and crispy breading.

Kirkland's huge bag is a pain to put in the freezer

Before heading to Costco, take a moment to survey your freezer. If it's stuffed and you have to take everything out and rearrange it puzzle-style to fit new foods in, skip buying Kirkland nuggets. There are enough servings in that bag to feed your four-person family five meals, but you'll need to have space to store it. At 4 pounds, this bag is not small.

Just Bare's bag size is more manageable at a pound and a half. You'll get two meals for four people from it, so you won't need to keep it in the freezer as long. Best of all, it won't take up as much space.

Both bags have ZipLoc-style resealable tops, which come in handy for keeping chunks fresh and freezer-burn free. Don't use scissors to cut open either bag because you'll ruin this feature. Instead, tear the bag along the serrated lines indicated on the front of the packaging.

Are Kirkland chunks or Just Bare bites better?

Kirkland and Just Bare both offer solid products. The companies' chicken chunks and bites taste good, get crunchy, and won't cost you an arm and a leg. Kirkland's chicken bites stand out because of their significantly lower price and slightly superior nutrition. Just Bare chicken bites have a better flavor and seem to show a better track record in animal treatment. Finally, this product's smaller bag makes it easier to store and keeps people from overindulging.

So, if you're planning on having chicken chunks once or twice a year, buying Just Bare may be more attractive as a special treat for you family. Your wallet won't feel the difference in price because you won't be buying them that often. On the other hand, if chicken chunks are a family staple — you eat them twice a month or so — and you already have a Costco membership, go for Kirkland's offering. You'll end up saving some money in the long run, and the taste is still great.