Costco is known as a company with a strong moral reputation that precedes them — they pay workers fairly and have undertaken a number of sustainability efforts (via USA Today and NBC). They also offer those great deals that keep us coming back for more, and perhaps the best-known example is their $4.99 rotisserie chicken. This absurdly cheap whole chicken is so popular, it even has its own fan page on Facebook with over 19,000 followers, a segment on an NPR podcast, and a fair amount of memes devoted to its unparalleled value. But when it comes an entire animal sold for less than some Starbucks lattes, you have to wonder if there’s a catch.
Unfortunately, that catch may just be the welfare of millions of chickens, and Costco customers are finally questioning the methods behind the meat. Mercy for Animals, an animal rights organization, captured some video footage from inside a Nebraska operation growing chickens for Costco and chickens undergoing what looks to be inhumane treatment: dirty, dark living conditions, breeding practices that promote growth so fast some aren’t able to stand under their own weight, burns and sores on their bodies from not moving. That $5 chicken doesn’t sound nearly as appealing now.
Complaints about Costco chicken conditions circulated online
According to an editorial from The New York Times, who cited the journal Poultry Science, the human equivalent of the rapid growth these chickens undergo would be like a 2-month-old baby weighing 660 pounds. They’re raised in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), where many of the animals we eat pass their short lives, according to the Sentience Institute. The New York Times report reached the moderator for the Facebook Costco Rotisserie Chicken fan page, and what he posted appeared to be a turning point for many Costco chicken die-hards.
B. Barry wrote that he’d been aware of complaints about the conditions the Costco chickens were living in, but had told himself that the good of providing low-cost protein to families who might be struggling outweighed the bad — until he saw the NYT article and the footage. “No more,” he wrote. “I’ve decided that it’s time to DEMAND that Costco align with and sign onto the ‘Better Chicken Commitment’ which works towards higher standards for industrial agriculture,” and “COSTCO MANAGEMENT IS WATCHING. If they refuse, I’ll suggest a boycott and shut this page DOWN.” Costco’s rotisserie chicken fan club itself has spoken — and if the number of likes are anything to go by, they’d be wise to heed the call.