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Suit accuses Costco of abusing birds to offer $4.99 rotisserie chicken to lure shoppers to stores

Two shareholders claim Costco grows its chickens so fast to sell them cheaply that the animals can’t stand under their own weight.

A pair of Costco shareholders filed a lawsuit against the chain earlier this month, accusing it of engaging in animal cruelty in order to sell cheap chickens to lure customers into its stores.

Krystil Smith and Tyler Lobdell filed the lawsuit in the Superior Court for the state of Washington, Seattle Division, on Monday, June 13, contending the company had broken animal welfare statutes and breached its fiduciary duties.

A Costco store in Inglewood, California, is shown above. Two Costco shareholders have filed a lawsuit accusing the company of engaging in animal cruelty. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Their lawsuit involves Costco’s $4.99 rotisserie chicken. The item has been a huge hit with customers, selling a record 106 million worldwide in 2021, according to Readers Digest. The company realizes it loses tens of millions a year by keeping the item price low, but also knows the item helps attract people into their stores, the report claims.

But the shareholders, in their lawsuit, accuse Costco of violating Nebraska and Iowa animal neglect laws. They allege that its chickens are raised so fast, they can’t stand under their own weight, then are sent to “dirty” factory farms, where they “slowly die from hunger, thirst, injury, and illness.”

Costco operates poultry facilities in Nebraska and Iowa.

“If Costco continues its illegal mistreatment of chickens, it risks undermining its long-running and successful traffic-generation strategy,” the lawsuit states. “As more consumers learn of the mistreatment of Costco chickens, the benefits reaped using loss-leading rotisserie chickens to drive customer traffic and purchases … will vanish or greatly diminish because consumer preferences to not buy products made illegally or unethically will trump the lure of a ‘cheap’ chicken.”

Officials at Costco would not comment on the lawsuit, The Washington Post reports. Last September, Costco released a lengthy statement defending its practices, noting that “Costco Wholesale is committed to the welfare of animals in its supply chains.”

Costco’s $4.99 rotisserie chicken has been a huge hit with customers, selling a record 106 million worldwide in 2021, according to Readers Digest. (Photo: Screenshot/YouTube.com)

Costco’s poultry facilities have been the subject of debate in the past. The group Mercy for Animals published a video of its undercover investigation that showed, among other things, chickens laying in their own waste. The video prompted news stories, opinion columns, and a petition on Change.org calling on Costco to “stop supporting animal cruelty.”

While Costco owns its poultry production facilities, the company hires contractors to raise and care for the animals.  

“Most of the individuals whom Costco contracted to raise chickens had never raised chickens before they started working with Costco,” says the lawsuit. “As a result, Costco is responsible for training these growers on how to raise chickens and how to care for animals, and for setting the animal welfare standards that these growers follow.”

According to its investor relations profile, Costco has 833 warehouses worldwide, with 116.6 million cardholders and revenue of $192 billion in the fiscal year 2021, which ended on August 29.

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