PORTLAND, Ore. — Costco Wholesale Corp. has condemned a veal producer's treatment of calves after seeing footage shot by an animal rights group.
The group, Mercy for Animals, released video this week that it said was taken by hidden recorders at Buckeye Veal Farm in Apple Creek, Ohio. It shows calves chained inside small stalls where they are unable to lie down or turn around and are covered in feces.
Several states prohibit confining calves in such crates, though Ohio does not.
The group urged Costco and Giant Eagle, two major grocers that carry the company's veal products, to stop selling veal from Buckeye.
Costco's CEO Jim Senegal said the company was not aware of the issue before it saw the video.
"We are extremely disappointed, not only with the performance of our supplier in this instance, but with our own performance as well," he said in a statement. "We hold ourselves to a high standard, and in this case, we plainly did not perform to that standard."
Costco's sole supplier for veal is Atlantic Veal and Lamb of New York, which buys meat from multiple farms, including Buckeye. Atlantic Veal declined to comment.
Costco said it has a long-standing position that any type of cruel treatment of animals is unacceptable and it requires all its suppliers to abide by these standards. The wholesale club said it is reviewing its policy to make sure its terms are clear.
Costco said it has inspected other Buckeye farms where it did not see such treatment but said it takes full responsibility for the error.
Buckeye said the video is sensationalized and includes shots from multiple farms not affiliated with Buckeye Veal in any way. The company said only a small percentage of the footage is from its farms.
"Careful review of this video does not show any mistreatment of animals at Buckeye Veal," the company said in a statement.
Buckeye said it finds calves can be cared for in both individual and group pens. The company said the footage shows calves in two of its facilities that are in the process of being converted to group housing that does not use individual stalls.
Giant Eagle said Atlantic Veal has assured the company that the farm's current practices are within industry guidelines. And Giant Eagle said while it has no intention of discontinuing the sale of veal products, the company is working with suppliers that have not already done so to switch to group housing for calves as soon as possible.
"Veal production represents one of the cruelest industries on the face of the planet, and its barbaric treatment of baby calves should not be tolerated by any socially responsible grocer," said Nathan Runkle, executive director for Mercy For Animals.
Giant Eagle did not respond to a request for comment.
Costco said veal is not one of its more popular products and only about half of its clubs offer veal, largely along the East Coast. The company, based in Issaquah, Wash., is working with Buckeye to gather more information and will carry the product until the investigation is complete.
Jeff Lyons, Costco's vice president of fresh foods, said if its supplier can't assure the company that all its veal is raised in conditions that meet its standards it will discontinue carrying the meat.
"We are going to do the right thing, that is the model of our company," he said. "If it can't be done properly ... no one wants to stand for that."