I recently emailed Costco with some questions about how their pork suppliers treat their animals. The answer was more encouraging that I had expected, but I'm not exactly sure what it means. I'm hoping someone can help me.
Here's the message that I sent to Costco:
[start my email]
I am a long-time Costco member and I''ve always found Costco to be terrific value
One of my favorite meats is pork, and you have great prices on it However, I am concerned about the way that pigs are treated in the mass-production pork industry and so have largely avoided buying pork from Costco I have several questions about your pork suppliers
1) Who supplies your pork? (I shop in Northern California Costco locations )
2) Can you give me any information on how your supplier (or suppliers) raises and treats its pigs?
3) Do you have any plans to offer "humanely raised" pork? (I realise that this is an amorphous term, but I''m thinking along the lines of the Niman Ranch husbandry guidelines )
[end my email]
Here's the response I got:
[start Costco's response]
Thank you for your email to Costco Wholesale.
I am sorry, yet we are unable to give out our supplier information. The pigs are raised in a barn with open access to the outside. Barn is temperature regulated because pigs are sensitive to heat. They are humanely treated with a vet on duty. They are confined only when the mother pig is feeding her young. That is a precautionary measure so she does not roll on the baby pigs.
Costco Wholesale Corporation
[end Costco's response]
I read this response to mean several things:
1) The pigs have access to the outside.
2) Although there are farrowing crates there are no gestation crates.
Is (1) right? Or is it that the barn has access? Maybe the pigs just get to breathe a bit of fresh air when the wind is right. I find it hard to imagine an open-air barn which is also "temperature regulated" against heat (i.e., air conditioned).
Overall the (brief) description suggests that the conditions the pigs are raised in are rather better than those in the charnel houses I've read about (e.g., http://tinyurl.com/vr8vn [rollingstone.com]).
Am I just deluding myself?