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Contact: Matt Johnson,, (319) 464-5985


Activists Say Shift to Cage Free Deceives, Endangers Consumers

October 19, 2016,  Berkeley, CA – Today, the animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) released an investigation into a “certified humane” Costco cage-free egg farm that revealed shocking cruelty and cannibalism. The investigation at Pleasant Valley Farms in Farmington, CA found hens being attacked and even cannibalized by other hens due to the crowded, unnatural conditions. The investigators also found chickens struggling to breathe air dense with ammonia and fecal matter; birds covered in feces; hens with bloodied bodies from attacks; and the rotten bodies of dead birds among the living.

In late 2015 Costco announced it was joining the industry-wide shift toward cage-free eggs. They expect to sell over a billion cage-free eggs in 2016, 26% of their total egg sales. DxE activists say the investigation demonstrates that cage-free environments are anything but humane.

“Costco says they require animals on their farms to experience ‘five freedoms’ - including freedom from fear and freedom from pain, but at this facility as at all animal facilities not a single one of the freedoms was met,” said lead investigator Wayne Hsiung, co-founder of DxE.

Pleasant Valley Farms, which also does business as Jenkins Poultry Farms, had at least 800,000 egg-laying chickens as of September 2012. The farm’s eggs are sold at Costco under Costco’s Kirkland brand. At the farm in question, which recalled its eggs in 2009 due to salmonella contamination, DxE investigators found multiple sick, injured hens covered in feces and struggling to walk. The investigators felt morally compelled to remove one of these sick hens and rush her to receive veterinary care. Today the hen (who the rescuers named “Ella”) lives safely at an animal sanctuary. Had she remained, she may have been pecked to death and cannibalized by the chickens around her.

Despite insisting the company cares about animal welfare, Costco purchases from egg and animal suppliers who have repeatedly been found to be committing violence against animals - a sign, activists, say, that there is no way to sell eggs without horrific cruelty. Between December of 2011 and March of 2012, activists documented extreme cruelty and neglect at a Christensen Farms facility in Hanska, Minnesota that supplied pork to Costco. In 2015 the Humane Society of the United States found violations of Costco animal welfare standards at a Hillandale egg farm in Pennsylvania. And a DxE investigation in mid 2016 found cruelty, filthy conditions and abuse of antibiotics at another Costco supplier, Hormel’s Farmer John pig farm in California.

The violence and neglect of animals on Costco’s farms threatens to spill over and threaten human health as well. Earlier this month, a Costco store was implicated in food poisoning when the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public warning about Salmonella illnesses associated with the rotisserie chicken salad at a Costco store in Washington state.  Last November 2015, 19 people from seven states were sickened by a strain of E. coli linked to consumption of Costco salad made with rotisserie chicken.

Studies show that there is nothing humane about cage-free environments. Both caged and cage-free facilities can have extremely high mortality rates and poor air quality. The birds in both caged and cage-free facilities fare extremely poorly on psychological measures of stress. 

Additionally, although cage-free eggs sold at Costco with the Kirkland brand are labeled Certified Humane, DxE found that the farm does not meet many of the standards necessary for a Certified Humane label.

Protests are planned at Costco stores around the country.

Access DxE’s full press folder, including videos and high resolution photos, here.

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) is a network of animal rights activists working to challenge speciesism throughout society.  We use creative protest to challenge the use of animals for food, clothing, experimentation, and entertainment.  Visit Direct Action Everywhere on Facebook and at  Follow us on Twitter @DxEverywhere.





  • "Costco wants the public to believe the animals they raise are free from fear and pain, yet these animals are imprisoned, with no autonomy or control over their daily lives." says DxE Investigator Diane Gandee-Sorbi

  • “What we saw inside the farm was no better than what is seen in a caged facility, the hens are still in pain, still exploited and still dying from egg production.” says Investigator Samer Masterson

  • “The hens at this farm are victims of Costco’s attempt at creating an image of cage-free eggs being inherently better for hens, when they are only increasing the suffering these birds experience.” Says Investigator Jason Oliver




See a gallery of photos from the investigation below. Click here to download all images as a zip file. For b-roll video, click here.




See a full fact sheet with details on the investigation, the history and science of cage free egg farms, and details on Certified Humane and Costco's animal welfare policy here.




Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) is a grassroots network of animal rights activists. Starting in the San Francisco Bay Area in late 2013, DxE has since grown to have participating chapters in over 160 cities in 30 different countries. Drawing from the power of the grassroots and groundbreaking social scientific research, DxE uses creative nonviolent protest to challenge speciesism throughout society.

In January and November 2015, DxE released investigations into two of Whole Foods market’s most notable suppliers, including a “Certified Humane” egg farm and a turkey facility that was one of only three farms out of Whole Foods’ 2100+ suppliers to receive a 5+ rating on its Global Animal Partnership welfare scheme. The investigations and the ensuing protests around the world received coverage in hundreds of news outlets, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

In February 2016, DxE released an investigation into JS West, an egg supplier that was hailed as a model of the most notable animal welfare law in U.S. History, California’s Proposition 2, sparking coverage in numerous outlets on the enforcement and regulatory failure of the law.

In July 2016, DxE released investigation into Hormel’s Farmer John, a “natural” pork farm that supplies Costco and the LA Dodgers, where investigators found antibiotic resistant Staph infection and the antibiotic Carbadox - a drug the FDA is processing as a carcinogen at all exposure levels.

DxE’s Open Rescue Network provides open-source educational tools and resources to democratize investigatory work. The Open Rescue Network intends to serve as infrastructure for independent, grassroots teams of animal rights investigators around the world.




Direct Action Everywhere has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and the Washington Post among hundreds of other media outlets. See press highlights and a full press archive here. To contact our press team, email