Costco’s hefty rotisserie chickens are the stuff of legend. They’re the professional wrestlers of the rotisserie chicken community, with crispy golden skin and some serious girth. They’re big boys. But now, a lawsuit claims that Costco is in violation of several livestock welfare laws by breeding chickens that “unnaturally” grow too fast. The boys... are simply too big.
The Nebraska Examiner reports that two Costco shareholders filed the lawsuit Monday, June 13, in Costco’s home state of Washington. The lawsuit includes the company’s top executives and several board members, who are being accused of violating the company’s fiduciary duty by providing inadequate “individualized” veterinary care for rotisserie-bound chickens. The unfortunate chickens are currently raised in Nebraska and Iowa through a subsidiary, Lincoln Premium Poultry, formed expressly for Costco’s ambitious rotisserie chicken cultivation.
The chickens are, in fact, enormous. In 2021, the animal rights group Mercy For Animals conducted a hidden camera investigation that revealed heinous conditions. The investigation is cited in the lawsuit, which claims that some birds grow so large, so quickly, that they’re unable to stand after falling on their backs. The lawsuit also claims that the chickens are managed by inexperienced farmers, who leave the chickens in “crowded” and “filthy” barns full of thousands of birds.
The lawsuit seems to be in direct contrast with Costco’s stated Animal Welfare policy, which is available on the wholesale chain’s website. The chain does note that, because of the large number of Costco suppliers, it is “simply not practical to audit on an ongoing basis to confirm that all suppliers are in compliance with all aspects of our Animal Welfare policies.”