Yesterday, Panera Bread – with nearly 2,000 restaurants – became the latest company to fortify its commitment to strong animal welfare policies, pledging to go completely cage-free for its egg supply in the coming years. In addition, last week, Kellogg’s and TGI Fridays also set timelines for eliminating battery cages from their supply chains. We applaud these companies for their decisions. Looking at changes within the broader food retail sector, 2015 has been extraordinary when it comes to farm animal protection, with pledges coming from the biggest names to end the era of extreme confinement of animals in cages and crates barely larger than their bodies. McDonald’s, Compass Group, Starbucks, Aramark, Sodexo, Kellogg, TGI Fridays, and so many others have made pledges.
Yet there’s one major outlier: Costco. Yesterday, on the day of Panera’s exciting announcement with The HSUS, we also made a different kind of announcement – that we are stepping up our effort urging Costco to go cage-free. Our new website, CagedForCostco.com, exposes the company’s unnerving tolerance for systemic mistreatment of hens in its egg supply chain; simply put, Costco is allowing its egg suppliers to lock chickens in cages for their entire lives and to give them no room to move. In 2007, Costco publicly indicated that its “next issue” in addressing hen cages was to determine a timeline for reaching a 100% cage-free supply chain. Since that time, we have attempted to work behind-the-scenes with Costco to accomplish that end. But the company has refused to move forward in any public way.
A centerpiece of our stepped-up campaign is a new hidden camera-style video, in which we take people through New York City’s “most disgusting apartment” to draw an analogy to the absolutely unlivable quarters in which the hens laying eggs for Costco’s shelves spend their lives. It’s not to be missed, and it is definitely to be shared – already with a quarter million views in a day’s time.
In June, we released an undercover investigation revealing just how miserable a life caged hens in Costco’s supply chain lead. Since then, millions have viewed the video and Costco’s received more than 12,000 phone calls from concerned customers. The likes of Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Bill Maher, and others have called for change, drawing media attention the world over. And a group of investors including Costco’s largest one, convened with us to address the matter.
We’ve been optimistic that the outcry would prompt some change, but still, Costco seems driven more by pride and stubbornness than any real desire to solve an obvious animal welfare problem. We have always liked the company, and thought it well run and good for consumers. But we won’t shirk from our responsibility to identify an obvious problem within its business model – nor to note that Costco, which said it would be a leader, is now an outlier.
We’re not just launching a new website and video, but a major national advertising campaign and more. And we are asking consumers to speak up and let Costco know what they think about a procurement strategy that draws from animals living in misery. I hope you’ll visit CagedForCostco.com today, watch our new video, and share it.
P.S. Costco is headquartered in Seattle – the same city that is home to Starbucks, which has made such a strong commitment to cage-free eggs at its 15,000 stores in the United States and Canada. I also cannot help but note that the people of Seattle and King County, along with every other county in the state, favored I-1401 on the Washington ballot on Tuesday in an overwhelming and emphatic action. The people of Washington care about all animals, and it’s time for Costco, a major corporate citizen of that state, to put that same principle into action.