inside costco



Consumer reporter Pat Volchok gives a behind-the-scenes look at Costco products and services. Send your questions to:

Costco’s savory, succulent seafood

is a steal

The scoop


SCALLOPS ARE scintillating seafood. Found in sandy bays and seabeds around the world, they propel themselves through the water by clicking their shells together like castanets.

An overactive adductor muscle is responsible for this action, and this whitish, round tenderloin is deemed by connoisseurs and chefs to be the most delicious, highly prized part of a scallop.

These dream puffs have only 1 gram of fat per 4 ounces and are sweet, tender and rich in protein, niacin, vitamin B12, iron, potassium and phosphorus. Their delicate flavor makes them enjoyable even for many non-seafood lovers.

Few foods are as convenient to prepare. Scallops thaw and cook fast. You can sear them in a hot skillet, broil, grill, stir-fry, sauté or bread them.

Fished throughout the year, scallops are either wild-caught or farmed. Like shrimp, scallops are sorted and priced according to size—the smaller the number per pound, the larger the scallop adductor meat and typically the higher the price. The U.S. wild North Atlantic scallop fishery—where Costco harvests Kirkland Signature™ scallops—typically yields sizes in the 40-scallops-per-pound to 7-scallops-per-pound range.

Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand offers two of the largest sizes. Gorgeous U-10s ( 10 or fewer scallops per pound) are available occasionally in cooler cases and nearly every

Friday and Saturday at Seafood Road Shows. The U-8-12s (eight to 12 scallops per pound) can be found in the freezer seafood section.

No matter the size or warehouse department, all Costco Kirkland Signature scallops are managed as one program, guaranteeing the same exacting quality specifications and standards for all.

Disguising the scallops—
and shucking the consumer

One would think the process pretty straightforward—harvest, shuck, rinse, freeze and package. However, most processors also shuck consumers by treating these delicate ocean morsels with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP) as a way to artificially plump up size, weight and pricing.

What is STP and why is it used? It is a chemical food preservative that is mixed with water to slow bacterial growth and add moisture beyond natural levels. It also washes away questionable odors and gases, bleaches graying scallops to pure white and adds enough false moisture after a three-day soak to turn U- 12 scallops into U-10s. When STP-enhanced scallops are cooked, they no longer have their naturally sweet taste and shrink by up to 25 percent.

STP is not allowed in the Kirkland Signature canned tuna or shrimp programs, and I wanted to confirm the same holds true for Costco’s raw, frozen scallops. So I called on Costco’s seafood team of Bill Mardon and Ken Kimble.

Bill reports, “When we began to dig into this industry, we were not happy with what we found. We discovered it is essentially an industry standard to treat scallops sold at retail with STP, and we knew we needed to eliminate that to give our members the highest-quality scallops.”

Costco’s only recourse was to create a full-time government-inspected U.S. Grade A scallop program. This is why a United States Department of Commerce (USDC) inspection stamp is now on every bag of Kirkland Signature scallops.

Ken adds, “We don’t stop with the government seal. Costco’s own labs also test regularly [see “Getting soaked”]. To my knowledge no other large retailer offers an all-natural scallop with such a highly inspected top-grade program. In fact, Costco now sells the largest percentage of truly dry [no water added], USDC Grade A wild scallops in the world.”

Costco’s scallop process
is Grade A

The first step in bringing delicious scallops to the warehouse is to partner with reputable, environmentally conscious companies. This is why Atlantic Capes Fisheries— recipient of the “FINesse” Award for responsible fisheries from the National Fisheries Institute—Mar-Lees Seafood and American Seafoods Group are on board. All three are USDA, USDC, FDA and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) certified scallop processors.