Brad Pitt Just Asked the Second-Largest Retailer in the U.S. to Go Cage-Free

The actor is the latest to call on Costco to make good on its promise to take its laying hens out of cages.

(Photos: Flickr; Getty Images)

Jul 17, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

Brad Pitt wants to know about the eggs.

The actor is the latest to question Costco, which announced in 2007 that it would start sourcing its eggs from cage-free hens. Comedian Bill Maher wrote an op-ed for The New York Times last week about the chain’s lack of action on the issue, and actor Ryan Gosling has also called on Costco to make good on its years-old pledge. In June, the Humane Society of the United States released a video that allegedly shows the mistreatment of hens at a Costco supplier.

“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 wrote in a letter addressed to Costco CEO Craig Jelinek. “In these cruel cages, the animals’ muscles and bones atrophy from years of immobilization. That’s why the cages are illegal in most of Europe, and why California banned the cages by an overwhelming vote years ago.”

A point of clarification: Proposition 2, the ballot measure Pitt references, doesn’t ban all cages but requires that hens be able to lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs. In effect, it outlaws the tight confines of battery cages but allows for roomier confinements. But his overall point is strong: Much of the food industry—including restaurants like Burger King, manufacturers such as Unilever, and retailers including Whole Foods—has gone cage-free.

Costco, the second-largest grocer in the country, has continued to make new promises regarding animal treatment and welfare, despite its lack of action on the egg front. In March, the chain announced that it would stop buying poultry that had been treated with medically important antibiotics.

But despite its 2007 announcement, Costco has been cagey in its response to the recent criticism. After the HSUS video was released, Costco issued a statement saying it was “committed to the ethical treatment of animals,” but it added that there is a “vigorous debate about animal welfare and laying hens” and that some question whether getting rid of confinement is best for the birds.

That’s not going to be enough for Pitt and his Hollywood brethren. “I admire Costco’s many positive social commitments. You’ve shown great courage and integrity on a range of issues,” he wrote in his letter. “Won’t you please extend that sensibility—and basic decency—to chickens?”