(Adds Humane Society statement, paragraphs 9-10)
CHICAGO, June 11 (Reuters) - Costco Warehouse Corp said on Thursday that it will continue to procure eggs from Hillandale Farms, which an animal welfare group this week said was mistreating hens at one of its facilities in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The Humane Society of the United States released footage by a former Hillandale employee showing hens laying eggs in cramped cages with deceased birds. The footage, gathered in April and May, also showed broken eggs and dead chickens on the floor.
The conditions in the video appeared to violate Costco’s published “Mission Statement on Animal Welfare.” The retailer said it believes it to be an isolated incident.
Hillandale facilities were checked as recently as this week by outside inspectors and the egg producer was found to be “behaving appropriately,” Costco, the third-largest U.S. retailer, said in a statement.
Hillandale Farms said the employee that gathered the footage was to blame for the lapse in production standards.
Costco conducts annual audits of vendors of animal products and says in its mission statement that it is committed to the welfare and proper handling of all animals used to produce food for its stores.
Costco would not commit to a timeline for promised transition to only cage-free eggs at its stores despite calls by the Humane Society to do so.
“We are going to be continuing to expand our cage-free business as fast as we can,” Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance and food safety, said on Thursday.
The Humane Society said Costco’s animal welfare claims fall short as long as it continues to source eggs from caged hens.
“It’s high time Costco do what it indicated it was going to do eight years ago and set a time frame for getting these inhumane cages out of its supply chain once and for all,” said Matthew Prescott, the group’s senior food policy director.
Reporting by Karl Plume and Nathan Layne; Editing by Jonathan Oatis