Mercy for Animals and Costco shareholders are suing the retailer over allegations of animal abuse.
Do you have a Costco membership? If Costco is one of your go-to places to shop, this latest lawsuit may interest you. Costco was recently hit with a lawsuit alleging poor treatment of its chickens that “are sold in stores as $4.99 rotisserie chickens.” Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that Costco “is violating its fiduciary duty to shareholders by not acting lawfully.”
The suit was filed in Washington state and specifically accuses the company of “illegal neglect and abandonment in its Nebraska chicken facility.” The plaintiffs claim the routine mistreatment of chickens is an “integral part of the company’s poultry production strategy and its business model.”
This latest lawsuit is focused on the company’s Nebraska chicken-processing plant. It’s a $450 million facility that opened in 2019. Each week, it processes about two million chickens, though the company plans for the plant to eventually “supply nearly half the chain’s total chickens.”
Who filed the lawsuit, though? For starters, two Costco shareholders filed the suit and accused the company of knowingly breeding “chickens too large to stand up.” To make matters worse, the plaintiffs claim “disabled birds slowly die from hunger, thirst, injury, and illness,” and Costco executives simply ignore any reports of abuse.
Legal Impact for Chickens, an animal activist group, is representing the shareholders. Alene Anello is the president of the group and said:
“Once lauded as an innovative warehouse club, Costco today represents a grim existence for animals in Nebraska who are warehoused in inescapable misery.”
This isn’t the first time the company has been criticized for its treatment of animals. In 2021, Costco was the focus of a report put out by Mercy for Animals, an animal-rights group. The report described conditions at the company’s chicken-processing facility that included “chickens struggling to walk under their own unnatural weight, bodies burned bare from ammonia-laden litter, dead day-old chicks, and piles of rotting birds.”
At the time, the retailer said, “Costco is committed to maintaining the highest standards of animal welfare, humane processes, and ethical conduct throughout the supply chain.”
Rotisserie chickens are one of the staples Costco is known for. In 2021 alone, the company sold 106 million rotisserie chickens and “publicly committed to keeping them priced at $4.99,” the same price it’s been since 2009 despite the rising costs in labor and production. Because of that, Costco knowingly takes a loss on the chickens, but uses them as a “strategy to draw customers into stores, where they will hopefully purchase other products with higher margins.”