White Leghorn egg-laying chickens in cages in their hen house.The Humane Society of the United States has filed legal complaints with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that Hillandale Farms, a Costco egg supplier, has deceived consumers with its poor animal welfare standards and “filthy and unsanitary conditions,” resulting in food safety concerns. The complaints come weeks after the Humane Society released an undercover video apparently showing egg-laying hens living in filthy conditions, often cramped in cages and standing on top of other hens that had died. The footage also shows what appear to be piles of broken, rotting eggs lying on the floors of the egg-laying facility. The imagery draws a sharp contrast to the depictions of hens roaming freely in a pasture on the Hillandale label, the Humane Society said. “It’s unconscionable to mislead Costco consumers with false depictions of how those eggs were produced,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the Humane Society, in a written statement. Days after the video became public, Hillandale Farms and Costco released statements disputing the allegations, saying that the undercover employee who shot the footage compromised their animal welfare standards. According to Hillandale, the employee who shot the video was the primary caretaker assigned to the barn and neglected their duties in order to misrepresent the farm’s conditions. Costco backed up the farm, saying that it had inspected Hillandale’s facilities and confirmed that the egg producer was “behaving appropriately.” Hillandale Farms was formerly owned by DeCoster Egg Farms, which was linked to nearly 2,000 Salmonella illnesses in 2010 in a massive outbreak. In April of this year, two company executives, Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster, were sentenced to three months in jail for shipping adulterated food. In 2007, Costco pledged to transition to selling only cage-free eggs, but the company has still not set a timetable for when that change would occur. The company says it sells more than 50 million cage-free eggs each year.

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  • Guest

    Awe the irony of HSUS claiming its unconscionable to mislead customers with false depictions, when the organization does the same with its ad campaigns for donations to help animals in need. Where in all actuality HSUS spends less than 1% of donations to help animals,and sends millions of dollars to offshore bank accounts for its retirement accounts.

    • Actually, it spends all of its money helping animals, or paying the necessary expenses including salaries, of people helping animals.

      You’re misquoting Rick Berman: he manages to skirt legalities by saying HSUS only spends a percentage of money _helping animal shelters_. Of course it doesn’t spend most of its money on animal shelters–it’s not a shelter organization.

      But then, last time we looked, commercial egg facilities aren’t shelters. And egg laying hens are animals. So your statement about HSUS not helping animals is contradictory, isn’t it?

      • Fool_Money_Parted_See?

        Here is where nearly all of HSUS donations go — salaries and contractor fees to well paid staffers in a myriad of shadowy organizations. As you can see in this activist map, HSUS is central to many, many inbred spinoff “charities”, all trying to get your money away from you to line their own pockets.

        http://www.animalagalliance.org/images/upload/Activist%20Map-%20FINAL.pdf

        The animal angle is merely a ruse to touch your emotions, cause you to let your guard down so you can be plundered and used. Don’t be another sucker!

        • Roma Seiker

          Amen. I would NEVER donate to HSUS. There are others who actually do some good. This is not one of them. Falsify “evidence” all the time and undermines the credibility of those of us trying to make a real difference.

        • Guest100

          You are misreading the graphic in the link provided. Very few of those organizations in the link receive money from HSUS and some are HSUS Affiliates. You can see which few do. Organizations often provide contributions and grants to other like-minded groups who share their goals. It’s not unusual. The others in the graphic participate in collaborative activities with HSUS but do not receive funds. Collaboration is a good thing. All non-profits want your money so they can continue their work, That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

          Here is the 2014 Annual Report from HSUS. You can see where their money goes. http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/about/2014-hsus-annual-report.pdf You can also look at their 990 for 2013 http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/financials/2013-hsus-form-990.pdf Here is the Consolidated Financial Statement for 2103 for HSUS and Affiliates.

          There is a misconception among the general public that any group calling itself a Humane Society is affiliated with and receives funds from the HSUS. Likewise, people think all groups calling themselves SPCAs are part of The American SPCA. That is why HSUS has to clarify that. It is not their fault that people have not educated themselves nor are they responsibie for educating them on their ignorance on the subject.

          After reading this discussion and many others over the past years from people who repeat the same complaints about HSUS, over and over again, I have yet to see any factual information that supports their claims or that would keep me from donating to them if I could.

          • Fool_Money_Parted_See?

            Yeah, there’s a lot of teamwork to see to it no stone is left unturned, no sucker goes unfleeced. A few key people duplicated on boards and marketing squads to keep everything in the family, a little money moved back and forth to keep everyone fat and happy, whatever it takes.

            CHARITY IS BIG BUSINESS as you see in the breathtaking size and complexity of this massive tearjerker network. These people have the nerve to squawk about “BIg Ag” and “Big Pharma” and “Big [fill in the blank]. Well, I guess they should know.

            What more “factual information” could any reasonable person call for?

      • guest

        Well Shelly you would be correct HSUS only spends a percentage of its money on helping animals. However more to my point was the fact an organization that derives its donations on the same principal, with only small fine print stating the donations are not for local humane shelters is in itself misleading. Case in point using HSUS own words its unconscionable to mislead customer with false depictions.

        But I guess my point is better stated by HSUS charitable status moving to a “donor advisory” proves the same point that it misleads the general public, and is not a good investment for donations.

        I would be more inclined to believe HSUS is in the business of helping animals but when you own staff, volunteers, or supporters would rather spend time video taping atrocities that happen to animals. Rather than being a person to stops it at the source by taking the problems to the owners of such businesses instead of playing up in the media to get attention to their cause.

        Oh and to address you last comment giving the less than 1% that HSUS only donates to helping animals it would be conceivable to use the same percentage as its only 1 building where appalling conditions exist.

    • Debbie Eggers

      How do you know this?

      • Expert as you claim to be

        Every factual thing you might want to know about HSUS right here:

        http://www.humanewatch.org/

        Pays to be informed before donating to dubious charities!

    • Guest100

      Take a look at this for a breakdown of funds. It’s non-partisan.

      http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=3848#.VZRlY6b1i84

  • So, the solely, only building where the conditions are the way in the video is the one where the video is filmed. And the appalling conditions are because of _one person_.

    Sure. Right.

    • Fool_Money_Parted_See?

      Yep, that’s about the size of it. If your undercover trickster found substandard conditions in any of the other buildings we would have hours and hours of footage of that, no? As an act of desperation your mole finally had to trash his own area of responsibility in order to get footage to sell to HSUS. Not terribly different from rioters looting and burning their own neighborhoods to get that priceless media attention. Same sick behavior in both cases.

  • Melissa

    Shelley’s correct. Thanks for taking the time to post.