While consumer concerns over farm animal welfare continue to climb, food industry leaders have gone to great lengths to address these concerns in their marketing over the last few years. The result is a variety of marketing claims on product packaging that attempt to allay these concerns. No where is this perhaps more evident than in the egg and chicken meat industry where the shear volume of animal raised for eggs and meat are greater than in any other livestock sector.
Record numbers of chickens and turkeys are being raised and killed for meat in the U.S. every year. Nearly ten billion chickens and over a quarter billion turkeys are hatched in the U.S. annually.*
Among the claims approved by the USDA are “cage free,” “free range,” “free roaming,” “pasture raised,” “grass fed,” “organic,” “natural,” and “naturally raised.” The consumer perceives these products as possessing a higher standard of animal welfare when in fact most of these have little to no impact on animal welfare or reducing pain and suffering. For an in depth report on welfare standards see The Truth Behind The Labels: Farm Animal Welfare Standards and Labeling Practices.
Such is the allegation in the latest high profile suit involving Purdue. The Humane Society of the United States filed a class action lawsuit Monday in New Jersey against Maryland-based Purdue Farms, accusing the nation’s third-largest poultry producer of falsely advertising its chickens as “humanely raised.” HSUS claims that the poultry producer’s marketing violates New Jersey consumer fraud law.
“Companies like Perdue are exploiting the dramatic growth of consumer demand for improved animal welfare for their own profit,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel of Animal Protection Litigation for The HSUS. “Rather than implementing humane reforms, Perdue has simply slapped ‘humanely raised’ stickers on its factory farmed products, hoping consumers won’t know the difference.”
At the source of Perdue’s “humanely-raised” claim is the National Chicken Council‘s Animal Welfare Guidelines which HSUS says no reasonable consumer would consider humane. Even the world’s foremost expert on slaughter, Temple Grandin, describes the conditions for chickens under the NCC guidelines as “awful.”
*Courtesy of Farm Sanctuary