Costco Wholesale Corporation on December 7 updated its 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. 

This commitment covers Lincoln Premium Poultry, the operator of the company’s new chicken processing facility currently under construction in Fremont, Nebraska. Notably, Costco will adopt methods to assess compliance with this policy.

The new policy was adopted following the company’s engagement with As You Sow, a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies.

As You Sow filed a shareholder proposal with Costco this summer, highlighting what the organization considered to be potentially harmful impacts of using medically important antibiotics in raising animals for meat.  

“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 in a press release. “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.”

Lincoln Premium Poultry, which is partly owned by Costco, is a new company that presently does not have any plants in operation, but construction is progressing for the facility in Nebraska. By late 2019, the plant will be processing about 2 million chickens per week, the company projected.

It is expected that about 40 percent of Costco’s fresh chicken meat will be processed at the Lincoln Premium Poultry plant.

In an earlier interview with WATT PoultryUSA, Lincoln Premium Poultry Chief Operating Officer Walt Shafer said all birds will be raised antibiotic-free and Costco will require regular third-party audits on both biosecurity practices and animal welfare.