The lawsuit alleges that Costco’s poultry processors breed chickens so large they can neither walk nor stand unassisted.
A pair of shareholders have filed a lawsuit against Costco, alleging that the retailer’s $4.99 rotisserie chickens are products of animal cruelty.
According to CBS News, Costco opened a brand-new, $450 million chicken processing plant in Nebraska in 2019 in an effort to regulate its own supply chain costs.
However, the lawsuit—filed Monday in the Superior Court of King County, Washington—accuses the company of “illegal neglect and abandonment” in the facility. The complaint alleges that Costco breeds chickens that are too large to stand without assistance, with “the disabled birds slowly [dying] from hunger, injury and illness.”
Costco’s breeding and animal welfare practices are allegedly illegal in both Iowa and Nebraska, where the retailer maintains poultry plants.
In his 48-page complaint, attorney Adam Karp said that Costco continues to sell its rotisserie chickens, despite investigations and leaked reports detailing “dirty, crowded, factory farms, run by inexperienced contract growers who Costco recruited and trained.”
The lawsuit asks the King County Superior Court to find Costco—along with its president, CEO, and others—liable for breaches of fiduciary duty, and order them to take any and all necessary actions to improve poultry-related practices and policies.
Alane Anello, president of Legal Impact for Chickens, says that Costco needs to reform its practices.
“Once lauded as an innovative warehouse club, Costco today represents a grim existence for animals in Nebraska who are warehoused in inescapable misery,” Anello said in a statement. “Costco’s executives must agree to follow both the law and general decency in order for Costco to resume being seen as an industry leader.”
Anello represents the shareholders in the lawsuit.
CBS News notes that Costco’s rotisserie chickens are sold under the retailer’s brand name, Kirkland Signature, and are purportedly “known for their taste and low cost.”
Costco sells the products at a general loss, hoping that consumers enticed by the rotisserie chickens will purchase higher-margin products before leaving the store.
The Lincoln Journal-Star notes that Costco has yet to comment on the pending litigation but released a statement in May 2021 in response to allegations of animal cruelty.
In its statement, Costco said that it is committed to keeping “the highest standards of animal welfare, humane processes and ethical conduct throughout the supply chain.”
Costco also said that its subsidiary poultry company complies with all necessary standards and regulations.
“Lincoln Premium Poultry shares our commitment, as do the independent growers selected for the program who have been carefully chosen based on our mutual business philosophies,” Costco said. “Independent audits are regularly performed to ensure all parties are consistently in compliance.”