Costco Sells Record Amount of Cage-Free Eggs Despite Feud

Costco (NASDAQ:COST) has been under fire for months by animal rights groups for not being completely cage-free like they promised back in 2007. But Costco Vice President Craig Wilson tells they sold a record amount of cage-free eggs this year despite the criticism.

“In 2015, we sold 2.9 billion eggs and 763 million of them were cage-free. That’s 26% of our total sales,” he says. “When you look at those numbers you can see where Costco is and look at the progress we have made.”

Wilson says in 2006, Costco sold about 1.6 billion eggs and only 34 million of them were cage-free.

“That’s only 2%,” he says. “We’re the largest seller of cage-free eggs in the world and we’ve been working on this for a long time.”

The Humane Society of the United States has been putting pressure on the wholesaler for months. Earlier this summer, the group released an undercover video showcasing a Costco egg supplier and the inhumane conditions hens are placed under.

Celebrities like Brad Pitt and Bill Maher even joined the fight. Pitt wrote Costco CEO, Craig Jelinek a letter on behalf of Farm Sanctuary asking him to go cage-free. While Maher laid out his view in a New York Times (NYSE:NYT) op-ed piece.

Paul Shapiro, the Humane Society’s Vice President told back in August that the company made a promise to go cage-free in 2007 and all they want them to do it follow through with it.

“It’s now eight years later, and the company still has no timeline, despite the fact that numerous other major retailers do. Costco should be a leader, not a laggard, when it comes to preventing animal cruelty in its supply chain,” he said.

Wilson says he’s the one who made that statement back in 2007 and said he was very clear at the time that they couldn’t confirm a time frame.

“There’s no question I said that but I was very clear that we will work with our producers on this and it will take time,” he says. “We are still not ready to give a time frame or schedule.”

Conventional eggs (ones in battery cages) in 2015 are still around 1.38 billion, Wilson says. While cage-free is growing, other consumers can’t afford to pay a premium price for cage-free and organic eggs.

“You and I are pretty lucky that we can pay seven or eight dollars for a carton of eggs but other people can’t afford to pay that,” he adds. “We are reaching out and supporting our family farmers through this transition the best we can.”