Costco Said it Would Go Cage-Free. What Happened?

Almost a decade ago Costco announced it would do something nice for egg-laying hens by going cage-free, but newly released footage of one of its suppliers shows the company is still a long way from reaching that goal. The video also raises some serious concerns about both animal cruelty and food safety.

The undercover exposé released this week by Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), was conducted at a Hillandale Farms facility in Gettysburg, Pa., which supplies Costco.

Eggs from this facility are sold by Costco under the brand “Nearby Eggs,” that come complete with labels depicting happy chickens wandering the lush green grass of an idyllic farm, presumably enjoying their time in the sun and fresh air.

Unfortunately, despite the neat packaging that helps perpetuate consumer confusion about what we’re paying for, that’s not even close to the actual conditions these hens are forced to endure day after day.

Some of the problems the investigation found include hens tightly confined in stacked wire cages barely able to move, hens with body parts trapped in caging, and probably most disturbing, live birds being kept in cages with the dead, rotting and mummified bodies of their cagemates all while laying eggs for human consumption. Then there are the broken, rotting, fly-covered eggs and bodies on the floor.

Not only is is this treatment of egg-laying hens cruel, but it’s disgusting to think that this is the source of food ending up on tables. And presumably many tables. HSUS notes that Costco is the nation’s second-largest grocery retailer.

“We’re disappointed that Costco still allows its egg suppliers to keep birds in filthy, cramped cages for their whole lives,” said HSUS vice president of farm animal protection Paul Shapiro. “Nearly a decade has passed since Costco indicated it wanted to end such abuse in its supply chain, and these birds continue languishing, every minute of every day, in conditions so filthy it would make most people’s stomachs churn.”

According to Reuters, Hillendale Farms unsurprisingly called it an isolated incident, but this factory farm style system is still how the vast majority of millions of egg-laying hens in the U.S. are kept. They’re stuck in cramped cages and denied the ability to engage in anything resembling their natural behaviors for their short lives.

For chickens used in egg production, regardless of how eggs are labeled, all egg-laying hens come from hatcheries that systematically destroy male chicks because they have no value to producers. While some may have better living conditions than others, they’re also subjected to painful mutilations and will be slaughtered at a fraction of their normal lifespans after their bodies are spent.

HSUS is now calling on Costco to make good on its promise to end this cruelty by joining other major retailers that have gone cage-free, but for animal lovers who aren’t okay with supporting an industry that continues to harm hens, there are a number of easy alternatives that can be used to substitute eggs – from applesauce, bananas, tofu, chickpea liquid and ground flaxseed to a number of egg replacer powders and now entirely fake plant-based eggs that can be scrambled.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

95 comments

Mark Donner
Mark Donner1 years ago

I've never been in Costco in my life. Looks like a Walmart.

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner1 years ago

Only buy Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) eggs. Organic and Cage Free are not cruelty free

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Caroline B.
Caroline B2 years ago

I only buy organic cage free eggs!

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Beryl Ludwig
Beryl L2 years ago

I am so glad I no longer shop there. I haven't for about 6 years now andI am glad I never bought their eggs, But that still doesn't get me off the hook. I shopped there for a while and one year was a year too many. I supported a lying cheating company. I should have known!

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Magdalena C.
Past Member 2 years ago

Thank you!

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Rudica R.
Rudica R2 years ago

Breaking News: Cheesecake Factory Makes Major Announcement on Gestation Crates, Cage-Free Eggs http://blog.humanesociety.org/?credit=blog_post_072815_id7424

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Rudica R.
Rudica R2 years ago

http://blog.humanesociety.org/?credit=blog_post_072815_id7424
Breaking News: Cheesecake Factory Makes Major Announcement on Gestation Crates, Cage-Free Eggs

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Rudica R.
Rudica R2 years ago

Breaking News: Cheesecake Factory Makes Major Announcement on Gestation Crates, Cage-Free Eggs http://blog.humanesociety.org/?credit=blog_post_072815_id7424

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Valentina R.
Valentina R2 years ago

No idea of what Costco is, but the whole world should go cage-free.

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