Costco Updates Animal Welfare Policy

Club store operator Costco Wholesale updated the company's animal welfare policy to include its commitment to restricting the use of antibiotics that are medically important to humans. [Source: Meat & Poultry, December 7, 2018, by Erica Shaffer]

Under the new policy, antibiotics are restricted to therapeutic use only, under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. This policy covers the operator of Costco's new chicken processing facility currently under construction in Fremont, Nebraska. Costco broke ground on its Lincoln Premium Poultry facility in 2016. The project is scheduled for completion in September 2019. The complex will include a 250,000-sq.-ft. processing plant, a 75,000-sq.-ft. hatchery and a feed mill and comes with a $300 million price tag. Lincoln Premium represents the first time a retailer has assumed the risks associated with meat production -- from farm to fork.

Costco developed the policy after Oakland, California-based As You Sow filed a shareholder proposal in August asking the retailer to adopt a policy aimed at phasing out antibiotic use in the company's meat and poultry supply chain.

"We are particularly encouraged by the company's plans to create mechanisms through which they will be able to verify supplier compliance with their antibiotics policy," said Christy Spees, environmental health program manager at As You Sow. "This is a significant undertaking, and one that we hope will cause a ripple of change in the meat industry and set a standard for other retail chains."

As You Sow has filed similar requests as a shareholder of Yum! Brands, Sanderson Farms Inc. and McDonald's Corp.