“Video footage revealed abhorrent cruelty including rows upon rows of birds confined in filth-laden cages with the mummified corpses of their cage-mates—eating, sleeping, defecating, and laying eggs on top of dead birds,” Gosling wrote in his letter.
He goes on to criticize Costco for their packaging and marketing of their eggs and challenges the retail giant to make a change.
“It is appalling that Costco has been selling these eggs with … cartons featuring graphics of birds living out in a green pasture," he wrote. “You're already eliminating cages for veal calves and pigs – don't you feel that chickens also deserve the same mercy? So many corporations are meeting public demand for more humane products and transparency in the food chain. I sincerely hope that Costco will set plans now to go completely cage-free for its eggs."”
The hidden camera footage was shot by an undercover Humane Society investigator, who worked as a day laborer at Hillandale for three weeks from mid-April to early May. His mission was to gain access to one of the company’s facilities near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and secretly film the conditions inside the chicken coops.
David Acheson, an independent food safety consultant, said that while the video is a "snapshot in time" and therefore doesn't provide the complete picture of the conditions at Hillandale, what is shown on the video does raise red flags.
“When you see evidence that some of those carcasses from the dead birds had been there for what would appear many days, if not weeks, then that clearly raises concern," he told "Nightline" in a previous interview. "If I was a buyer of eggs from a facility and saw those conditions, I’d think twice.”
Jeff Martin, a Hillandale manager at their facility near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where the undercover video was taken said he was “disturbed” when he saw the footage and invited "Nightline’s" cameras to the facility.
“My first reaction was I was disturbed because it doesn’t represent what we are,” Martin told "Nightline" in a previous interview. “I walk these houses. I walk these facilities week in and week out and I don’t see that. I don’t see what was in that video, and there were parts of the video that saddened me. There were parts of the video that made me angry, and so we launched a full-scale investigation as to what happened.”
But Martin and the company insist that the conditions shown in that video are not the norm at the Gettysburg facility or at any Hillandale facility.
The company says it has rigorous food safety standards designed to protect against another salmonella outbreak. They say they vaccinate every hen against salmonella, have a staff veterinarian on-site, and use only vegetarian feed, which they say is less likely to be vulnerable to an infection. Hillandale also has to pass quarterly inspections from state agriculture officials, which they have.
Dr. Gregory Martin, a poultry educator from Penn State University who has worked with Hillandale, insists the conditions seen in that undercover video pose no real danger to the safety of the eggs.
In regards to Gosling's letter, both Hillandale and Costco declined to comment. In our original report, Costco told “Nightline,” that it is “committed to the ethical treatment of animals”, and says while “Hillandale has identified some areas in which it believes it can improve”, It believes based on its own inspections that “Hillandale is behaving appropriately.”
Before Gosling's letter came out, Humane Society spokesman Wayne Pacelle told "Nightline" in a previous interview that it was time for Costco to make a change in the kinds of eggs they sell.
“Costco is the third-biggest food seller in the United States,” Pacelle said. “It told us eight years ago that it was going to opt for cage-free production and only use suppliers that would produce those cage-free eggs for its many millions of consumers."