Following engagement with As You Sow, Costco Wholesale updated today their animal welfare standards to include a policy on the responsible use of antibiotics, establishing a commitment to restrict the use of medically important antibiotics in the company’s meat and poultry supply chains to therapeutic use only, under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. Among others, this commitment covers the operator of the company’s new chicken processing facility currently under construction in Nebraska. Notably, Costco will adopt methods to assess compliance with this policy.
As You Sow filed a shareholder proposal with Costco this summer, highlighting the harmful impacts of using medically important antibiotics in raising animals for meat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider antibiotic resistance one of the biggest threats to public health today. It has been estimated that antibiotic-resistant infections will cause as many as 300 million premature deaths and up to $100 trillion in global economic damage by 2050.
“We are particularly encouraged by the company’s plans to create mechanisms through which they will be able to verify supplier compliance with their antibiotics policy,” Christy Spees, environmental health program manager at As You Sow, said. “This is a significant undertaking, and one that we hope will cause a ripple of change in the meat industry and set a standard for other retail chains.”
The overuse and misuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture is recognized by the CDC and WHO as a significant contributor to the problem of antibiotic resistance. Retailers have significant purchasing power to influence industry standards, and we believe that Costco’s policy will help move the meat industry towards practices that will better protect consumers from this public health crisis.
To learn more about As You Sow’s work on antibiotics and factory farms, click here.