Breaking News: HSUS Investigation Exposes Cruelty and Filth at Costco Egg Supplier

By on June 9, 2015 with 55 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

My colleague Paul Shapiro and I just completed a press conference exposing repugnant treatment of hens at a major egg supplier to Costco—the nation’s second-largest grocery retailer. At the factory farm in question – a notorious egg producer called Hillandale, which was previously implicated in 2010 in the biggest egg recall in American history centered in Iowa — our investigator found heart-wrenching problems, this time at Hillandale’s facilities in Pennsylvania. Our new investigation found:

  • Birds confined in cages, packed so tightly they basically lived on top of each other.
  • Live birds locked in cages with the mummified corpses of their cage-mates—eating, sleeping, defecating, and laying eggs on top of dead birds.
  • Hens’ wings, legs, and necks trapped in the corroded wires of their battery cages – breaking their limbs or choking them.
  • Rotting, broken, fly-covered eggs, along with dead birds, littering the facility’s floor.

The eggs from this facility are sold at some Costco stores under the brand name “Nearby Eggs,” in packages depicting a cartoon image of hens roaming free in a pasture outside a picturesque red barn—a visual that couldn’t be further removed from reality.

In other words, Costco is providing shelf space to an operation and associated system of egg production that subjects birds to unacceptable living conditions and is also pulling a fast one on its customers.

Costco-hillandale-investigationWhile many major egg producers are phasing out barren battery cages and moving toward cage-free housing systems to meet consumer demand, Hillandale is an outlier. This egg factory farm operator has even been working over the last two years to open up a conventional battery cage facility in Ohio and subvert an agreement reached between The HSUS and farm groups that forbids that very thing.

Most important to this controversy is that Costco, in 2007, publicly indicated its commitment to a goal of selling cage-free eggs only. We understand that companies need time to make major changes, but it’s been nearly a decade and Costco still doesn’t even have a timeline for accomplishing that transition. Many other major companies have announced and implemented similar plans. Just last month, Walmart announced its commitment to the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare and I am sure that no reasonable observer would expect that company to wait nearly a decade to act on its statement of principles.

Hens in battery cages live pitiful lives of constant deprivation, packed together so tightly they can barely ever move. They live in the darkness, with no comforts, and all they know is suffering and little else. Costco can do better. It has already set animal welfare baselines for pigs (no gestation crates) and calves (no veal crates), and can and should do the same for laying hens, just as it pledged eight years ago.

Take action now – call Costco and urge them to stop selling eggs from caged hens. Good intentions matter, but they must be given life, and in this case, stocked on the shelf.

Watch video footage of the investigation:

Farm Animals, Investigations

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Sites That Link to This Post

  1. Wayne Pacelle: Breaking News: HSUS Investigation Exposes Cruelty and Filth at Costco Egg Supplier - Gandhi's Be Magazine | June 12, 2015
  2. Ryan Gosling to Costco: Go cage-free | Stock Sector | June 22, 2015
  3. Ryan Gosling to Costco: Go cage-free | topfinancialnew | June 22, 2015
  4. Wall Street National | Ryan Gosling to Costco: Go cage-free - Wall Street National | June 23, 2015
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  14. Wayne Pacelle: Celebrities as Partners in Our Quest to Shed Light on Animal Abuse Throughout the World - Gandhi's Be Magazine | June 25, 2015
  15. Ryan Gosling just put Costco on notice for breaking a big animal cruelty promise | Animalosity | June 26, 2015
  16. Ryan Gosling and The Humane Society vs. Costco’s Appalling Animal Cruelty Practises | June 27, 2015
  17. Wayne Pacelle: The High Cost of Costco Cruelty - Gandhi's Be Magazine | July 10, 2015
  18. Humane Society of the United States: The High Cost of Costco Cruelty - Be In The City | July 22, 2015
  19. What You Can Expect from Big Box Discount Retailers Like Costco - Waking Times : Waking Times | August 13, 2015
  20. What You Can Expect from Big Box Discount Retailers Like Costco | Alternative News Network | August 13, 2015
  21. Ryan Gosling Just Put Costco On Notice For Breaking A Big Animal Cruelty Promise | Peaceful Warriors | August 30, 2015
  1. Sherron Hawkins says:

    i have been a Costco member for many years. Please do the right thing or I will NOT renew my membership!

    • Larry says:

      Yes, it needs to change, however removing your membership will do absolutely nothing to Costco. Remember, ALL of those caged-hen eggs are being sold somewhere, by some retailer. Maybe supporting pressure on the farmers would be a better solution. Just a thought.

      If you want to drive action at Costco, contact your local store for the name and address (or email address) of their CEO and start a dialog.

      • Andrew says:

        Pressure on the farmers may not be the best way to go. Often, farmers are forced into contracts under threat of losing their livelihood. Most of them don’t even own their chickens. They are owned by a large corporation, like Tyson, that pays a farmer to house and tend the chickens according to Tyson’s contract demands.

    • Rick Hunter says:

      Good for you.

    • PeckinGorgeous says:

      Why are people still buying eggs at these big chain stores anyhow?
      I can get a dozen large, TRULY free range eggs(not the bs “free range” or “cage free” they put on the cartons at Costco and other stores) for 3 bucks. THREE BUCKS. I can see first hand how the hens are treated, the drive is only a few miles, AND the eggs are FRIKKIN DELICIOUS.

      Plus I get to support a local, hard-working, blue collar family who need my support. The little guys should be helping the little guys, we have helped pad the pockets of the big guys long enough.

      What some commenters are saying about farmers being pressured into contracts to sell eggs to these companies is 100% true. Maybe these farmers wouldn’t have to sign these contracts and face litigation if their neighbors would simply stop going to one stop shop places for everything and make a few simple changes.
      Or what? You expect these companies to do it for us? You think they care one red cent about our health or the well-being of those animals?

      People complain so much, but no one wants to change their life one iota to make a difference. Farming is HARD. I know, I used to live on one. They do all the work, take all the risk, and suffer all the losses, but with the system we have in place today, they make very little pay and many of them live well below poverty level.

      If you think I am exaggerating, you are sadly mistaken. Quit being blindly led, open your eyes and do something. Be the change you want to see in the world, or shut your mouth and get in line.

      Sorry to be so harsh, but after witnessing it for so many years, it just gets tiring. I’m ready for change.

      Here, watch this. It’s John Oliver, and it’s hilarious, even though it’s also true: .youtube com/watch?v=X9wHzt6gBgI

  2. Sherron Hawkins says:

    I have been a Costco member for many years. Please do the humane thing or I and many others will NOT renew membership!

  3. Lucille Turuseta says:

    Please cage free or I will no longer go to Costco to shop with or without friends……

  4. Marko Polo says:

    Clearly the authors have set out to assassinate Costco. Warning gentle readers, you are being manipulated on a grotesque scale. So Waltons ‘just last month’ announced it’s commitment… but they get a pass? If Costco had done the same for the past 8 years, would they be getting this treatment now? Huh. Where is the egg industry commitment? How about we all call the egg farmer and tell them to fix the problem? No, I guess it’s all about bashing Costco – trying to tackle a problem that the industry can’t/won’t fix on it’s own. People vote with their dollars. Stop buying and there will be no more problem. Who decides that business needs to be the industry police? As for members who won’t renew because of this issue – really? How about you look into the entire communities that Costco supports in very poor countries before you pass judgement.

    • Devin Serpa says:

      Waltons et al have been blacklisted long ago.

    • BB says:

      Ya, I’d like to think that Costco will act on this problem NOW. The video is startlingly gross. I’m going to my store tomorrow and checkout the eggs. Yes and I think, I WILL ask for an address to the central office of the corperation. AND PEOPLE, JUST STOP BUYING THOSE EGGS. Costco is a place I’d like to continue to shop.

  5. Lewis says:

    Marko, I’m glad you agree that there’s a problem here and people should vote with their dollars. The cruelty in this video is sickening and no company should be ok supporting it. One way people can act with their dollars here is by not renewing their Costco memberships, or just by calling Costco and raising their concerns. I agree we should try to improve conditions on the egg farm, but Costco has a lot more power to improve conditions at its suppliers than any customer does. Let’s start where we can as Wayne suggests, and then work to get rid of cages across the egg industry.

  6. LoriO says:

    Costco or not, this video shows the reality of the suffering that happens every single day in our country due to factory farming. It is sickening. Respect the animal that gives you the food, don’t abuse it.

  7. Maffam says:

    Is this balanced reporting? Where is Costco’s reply to your information? Where is the proof, hard evidence? The tracking of these eggs to Costco shelves? Please publish responsibly and fairly. Anyone can make accusations, can you also provide a rebuttal? I know Costco to be a responsible vendor/ retailer and one who provides excellent product for a great value.

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi, I am the blog editor for A Humane Nation. An investigator for The HSUS documented all of the problems found at Hillandale farms that are listed on the blog. Also, Hillandale supplies Nearby Eggs which are stocked at several Costco stores. Please call Costco through the link provided in the blog to speak to them about these findings and ask them what they intend to do about ending the cruelty.

  8. Connie Burris says:

    I will never buy Costco farm eggs again, and telling my friends of the cruelty of the hens that are packed in tiny cages, How do they get by with such disgusting act of cruelty?

  9. Joanne says:

    Call costco – voice your concerns and then vote with your wallet – don’t buy their eggs until they purchase cage free. If no one purchases an objectionable product , they will stop selling it. We should all demand as many organic, sustainable, ethically raised products as we can from costco. They can do it – they’ve gotten really good about it – start a dialogue and boycott the products you disagree with

  10. Alan Cohen says:

    As a shareholder, I have sent a message to the company that immediate action to stop the misery must be undertaken. If not then we need to have a shareholder discussion with the executives we hire to get this right.

    How sad.

  11. John says:

    Costco has been slipping for a few years now, probably due to the change in leadership. The original CEO seemed pretty good, although these eggs were also being sold under his watch. There are problems with some of the dating practices for some of their perishable goods (look at the dates on some of the fresh fish – up to 8 days for fresh trout? Even refrigerated at near-freezing it would be an awful, putrid mess by then). Also, some of their produce is still being sold past the use-by dates – you have to watch the dates, especially when buying large quantities. It is pretty easy to find produce being stocked following other than first-in, first-out practices. By the time those older packages work their way to the front they are not worth buying, even if you were to use them right away. Also, with the steep prices that Costco charges for fresh fish, there is not reason for them not to follow sustainable practices. If nothing else, this would be a big, positive PR move. I really don’t get it, other than the new leadership probably losing its way.

  12. Julie lovell says:

    This is wrong and needs stopped now!

  13. Devin Serpa says:

    Conform to CA Cage Free or I will not be renewing. Mbr# 11183227****

  14. Darla says:

    Chickens aren’t the only ones that suffer. Helping them have better conditions is just the begging of what needs to take place for better conditions for all animals!!! Don’t forget about the horrible deaths and living conditions of the animals that provide your meat, and dairy products such as yogurt cheeses and milk.

  15. Aline rahier says:

    Please do the right thing for these animals….

  16. mary carpin says:

    This is horrifying! Hope this is resolved quickly!

  17. Rita Ciavola says:

    Costco do the wright thing ! Or you loose a customer..

  18. Bernadette says:

    Costco is not the only store to buy from this supplier. Many, many grocery stores in Pennsylvania and surrounding states buy Hillandale eggs, either directly or from a distributor. Costco may be the second largest retailer, but the collective of buyers from Hillandale is even larger. Why pin it on Costco, which has always gone above and beyond with what it offers, unlike Walmart, which just cleverly decided it might be good for business? Why not pin up everyone who sells these eggs so we could all be shocked at what we didn’t know?

  19. Nikki Temple says:

    COSTCO, as well as every other store, should stop selling meat and animal secretions altogether. Read what eggs really are people! And as far as the abuse of animals, as long as filthy humans buy animal products, producers will provide them and animal abuse will continue. For GOD’S sake, GO VEGAN! WHY DO PEOPLE STILL CONTRIBUTE TO ANIMAL ABUSE BY EATING MURDERED ANIMALS AND THEN COMPLAIN ABOUT TJE WAY THEY ARE TREATED. IF YOU EAT ANIMAL PRODUCTS, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN. YOU ARE SUPPORTING THIS.

  20. Ashley says:

    Going cage free is not much better they will still be very confined in the same space . Maybe people should start buying from the family farms agian ! This is very sad to me , Also just think of how your meat birds are raised this is clean compared to what they are raised in . Can’t stress it enough buy from your local small family farms and know where your food is coming from!!

  21. Kit says:

    “Sold at some Costco stores”…WHICH ONES? If they’ve actually been traced for sale, we need to know which ones!

    • Vaishali Honawar says:

      Hi, I am the blog editor. It is now unclear as to which stores, as Costco may have begun removing eggs from this facility. However, the larger issue at hand is Costco’s sale of eggs from caged hens – which are sold at all Costco locations. The caging system is the real root of the problem here, and is what we hope Costco will correct. Thanks.

  22. Nancy says:

    UR A MULTI/BILLION DOLLAR company and you cant even go cage free???

    Shame on you costco!

    This needs to change NOW!!



  24. Robin S says:

    Just sent this link to my parents who are loyal Costco shoppers. Thanks for making us aware.

  25. Costco Shopper says:

    People are quick to place blame on the retailer but not on the farm owner. Costco doesn’t own or operate the facilities in which these chickens are kept. You have the option of buying the higher priced eggs which presumably are kept in better conditions. Most people don’t care and will buy the cheapest. That’s why conditions like this exist. I’m sure the farm owners would keep different conditions if they were paid more to raise.

  26. Dr. Paul Critelli says:

    Ahh, just another blessing that these “cheaper than cheap ’cause we chop American jobs to get it even cheaper” stores have given us. Simple equations, and yes, I do realize that the Filth Farm referred to is in our country: Get the cheapest products = put Americans out of work. I routinely make it a point not to shop in these places as I think we all need to help our neighbors IN THE LONG RUN by bringing all forms of industry back. As for the criminals running these farms – know the folks who really can farm humanely and produce FAR better products. Yes, it will cost more, but it gives us so MUCH more!

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