LOS ANGELES (AP) — Brad Pitt and Bill Maher say Costco contributes to animal cruelty by selling eggs from caged hens.
Pitt sent a letter to the chief executive of the big-box chain Thursday asking the company to stop selling eggs produced this way. Pitt’s letter to Craig Jelinek says caged birds suffer atrophy of their muscles and bones from years of immobility, adding that the cages have been banned in California and much of Europe.
“As you know, these birds producing eggs for your shelves are crammed five or more into cages that are not large enough for even one hen to spread her wings,” Pitt writes.
Maher took aim at the company in an editorial published last week by The New York Times.
“Multiple investigations into battery cages document animals with deteriorated spinal cords, some who have become paralyzed and then mummified in their cages,” Maher wrote. “Imagine cramming five cats or dogs into tiny cages, hundreds of thousands in each shed, for their entire lives. That would warrant cruelty charges, of course. But when the egg industry does it to hens, it’s considered business as usual.”
Both commended Costco for its other animal-welfare efforts and called on the company to make good on its 2007 promise to move toward uncaging its egg-laying hens.
— Brad Pitt, Bill Maher slam Costco, speak up for caged hens, Associated Press, today
A few years ago I became a mostly-vegetarian because agribusiness’s treatment of animals was bothering me enough for me to make the change. I eat fish, cage-free eggs and free-range chicken, but no other meat or poultry. I’ve become very conscious of which stores sell cage-free eggs and free-range chicken, and the relative prices for these. Trader Joe’s has by far the least expensive cage-free eggs. Their free-range chicken—they sell two brands—is relatively reasonable, too. Which is to say, it’s more expensive than non-free-range, of course, but not exorbitant.
A few weeks ago, I stopped in at a Walmart that has a full grocery store within it and as I was passing the eggs saw … these. Wikipedia explains:
The Happy Egg Company is one of the UK’s largest free-range egg brands. Originally setup in January 2009 by Noble Foods, the brand’s annual turn over for 2013 was close to £75 million. The brand philosophy is to put the welfare of their hens first and the company claim to operate above established free-range egg production standards. The company’s farms have 20% tree coverage and assorted environmental enhancements.
The brand launched in the US in October 2012. In January 2015, the American Humane Association announced that the company is the first egg producer to receive humane certification.
Okay, they’re expensive—about $.40 more per dozen than a cage-free brand that Walmart sells, which in turn are well more expensive than the eggs from caged hens. But everyone has his or her priorities. I love eggs but would no longer eat them if I couldn’t get them from cage-free hens. And free-range, of course, is better. And apparently there are a lot of Brits who think the extra cost is worth it, too. The company is only six years old and doing quite well.
Here in this country an epidemic of bird flu in several western states has caused a significant rise in the price of eggs recently. And most of the eggs Walmart sells are, of course, other brands, most of them not cage-free. But let’s hear it for Walmart for offering this brand. And may The Happy Egg Company find this country a friendly market.
As for Costco, people who care about this issue and who shop regularly at Costco should buy their eggs elsewhere.
UPDATE: Actor Ryan Gosling beat the other celebs to the punch. In an open letter to Costco’s CEO last month in the wake of an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States, Gosling wrote:
…. Video footage revealed abhorrent cruelty including rows upon rows of birds confined in filth-laden cages with the mummified corpses of their cage-mates—eating, sleeping, defecating, and laying eggs on top of dead birds—and hens’ wings, legs, and necks trapped in the corroded wires of their battery cages.
Furthermore, it is appalling that Costco has been selling these eggs with deceptive labeling on cartons featuring graphics of birds living out in a green pasture. You’re already eliminating cages for veal calves and pigs – don’t you feel that chickens also deserve the same mercy?
So many corporations are meeting public demand for more humane products and transparency in the food chain.
I sincerely hope that Costco will set plans now to go completely cage-free for its eggs.