Consumers Allege Perdue's "Humane" Poultry Labels Are "False and Deceptive"

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Have you ever wondered what labels like "humanely raised" and "cage free" mean when you're looking at a package of meat or eggs at the supermarket? Do corporations actually live up to the claims on the labels?

Well, a consumer class action lawsuit in New Jersey is trying to bring a little truth to labeling when it comes to the humane treatment of animals. The lawsuit alleges that Perdue Farms, Inc. has misled consumers by advertising its Harvestland brand of chickens as "humane." The suit was filed by two consumer members of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on behalf of a group of consumers. The case has been cleared to move forward by a federal court in New Jersey and will be heard later this year.

The case alleges that Perdue's labels violate the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). This is a powerful law to protect consumers from fraud in a number of areas. In 2011, for example, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the CFA applies to mortgage loans, including a lender's activities post-foreclosure-judgment, granting treble damages to the plaintiff in the foreclosure case Gonzalez v. Wilshire Credit Corp.

Lawsuit Claims Chickens Are Not Raised or Slaughtered Humanely

Perdue-owned Harvestland chicken on sale at a North Carolina Wal-Mart in Dec. 2010 (Original image: HSUS)The main thrust of the lawsuit is that, contrary to the claim that the birds are "humanely raised," during slaughtering, Harvestland's chickens are "shackled by their legs, upside-down, while fully conscious; electrically shocked before being effectively rendered unconscious; cut ineffectively or partially while fully conscious; drowned/scalded while conscious"; and that when they are being raised, they are "stored in trucks for hours under excessive temperatures; subject to lighting conditions which result in eye disorders; injured in the process of being removed from their shells; subject to health problems and deformities due to selective breeding; and provided no veterinary care."

One of the lead plaintiffs, Nadine Hemy, alleged that she would not have purchased the "premium-priced" chicken if she knew the chicken was "not in fact treated humanely," according to documents from the case.

Perdue's Harvestland brand of chickens are labeled prominently both as "humanely raised" and "USDA process verified." The suit alleges that this misleads consumers by implying that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has verified that the birds are raised humanely. In fact, there is no legal mandate that requires the USDA to ensure humane slaughter of birds in facilities used by Perdue or other commercial poultry processors because there are no official humane slaughter poultry regulations. Poultry falls outside the protections of the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the law which applies to pork and beef, so there are no mandatory federal standards for the slaughter of poultry.

Inhumane Practices Allowed by Industry-Derived "Animal Welfare Guidelines"

The National Chicken Council (NCC) is the poultry industry trade group, which created voluntary "Animal Welfare Guidelines" for poultry processors. Perdue's "humane" claim is based on standards "not meaningfully different" from these industry-derived standards, according to HSUS. The plaintiffs allege that these standards "necessitate inhumane treatment" and foster non-compliance "huge loopholes" and a lack of independent monitoring and enforcement.

According to advocacy groups like the Animal Welfare Institute, the NCC's guidelines were industry-driven, included no input from animal welfare advocacy groups, and are completely insufficient to ensure humane treatment. Temple Grandin, who revolutionized livestock processing and slaughtering to try to make it more humane, calls the guidelines and scoring system "so lax that it allows plants or farms with really bad practices to pass."

Court Denies Perdue's Motion to Dismiss the Case

A federal court in New Jersey issued a decision on March 31, 2013 that denied all the arguments in Perdue's motion to dismiss the case clearing it to move forward, according to HSUS staff attorney Kate Levy. The HSUS is not a plaintiff in the case, but the two lead plaintiffs in the class are HSUS members, and they are represented by HSUS staff attorneys as well as Washington, DC law firm Tycko & Zavareei LLP and New Jersey attorney David M. Wacksman.

Levy told CMD that the plaintiffs have asked the court to enjoin Perdue from further use of the "humanely raised" label as well as for compensatory and punitive damages. "In response to growing consumer demand for humane treatment of animals," Levy said, "Perdue and others are attempting to maximize profits by making claims about humane treatment, but slapping a label on a package does not mean that livestock are being raised humanely."

This article has been updated to include a more nuanced description of the laws governing humane slaughter of livestock.


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Kosher Chicken ??? Before slaughter, no different than others.

I have to go through hoops and spend more money and time then I like to find Kosher Chicken. A congregation member of my Orthodox Synagogue, told me that chickens don't have to be raised any special way, treated any special way, as long as the slaughtering is done by Kosher law which is supposed to be quick and humane. This involves Kosher , and Rabbinic supervision, before any meat product is considered Kosher and OK for a religious Jew to consume. PETA, burned me up by attacking Beef,Lamb,or other read meat sources deemed fit to be Kosher. The methods include a quick slaughter and the meat is processed afterward to remove excess blood. Since Kosher meat is expensive and not provided in nearby markets, I don't buy large quantities. I often opt for chicken instead of Red Meat. I also am more of a vegetarian most of the week, but not a vegan. I have had a recent health problem that caused a serious enough depletion of Iron, and an off blood count reading, that I was advised to see a hematologist. Iron supplements can make my stomach rebel. I do like and prepare beets, dark greens and other vegetable forms that can help. I do probably need to add at least liver to my diet occasionally and may be other Red Meat. I don't think it's healthy to eat meat all the time, but I seem to need at least a certain amount of it.

Kosher Chicken ??? Before slaughter, no different than others.

Kosher slaughter, I always thought was humane by design. Quick slaughter with as little suffering to the animal as possible. I heard from another congregant at my Orthodox Synagogue, that it doesn't matter how any chicken is raised, as long as the slaughter is supervised and Rabbinical. I don't eat meat frequently. Possibly a weekly basis, but since health problems are showing my Iron is severely depleted, my consumption and enjoyment of beet products, broccoli, dark leafy greens and spinach is not enough. Once you eat meat, no dairy is consumed for several hours. I am not a vegan. I have resorted to buying and eating some Kosher chopped liver. I prefer chicken. Places that sell Kosher meat are not near by me and I don't drive. PETA has me burned up, because they have attacked in the media, Kosher butchers of Beef, Lamb, etc. This is also supervised to be humane as well as according to Jewish Law. Is PETA anti semetic or are they really concerned for animal rights. People need to be healthy and their freedom to practice their religion, I thought was part of our constitution.

Kosher Chicken ??? Before slaughter, no different than others.

I try to keep Kosher and only buy Kosher meat. Without a car and few places near me selling it, I have a problem keeping a supply of Kosher Chicken. The supervised process of slaughtering and Koshering Chickens is supposed to be Humane and quick. I recently learned from my Orthodox congregation members, that any chicken, raised in any fashion, including Perdue, can be Kosher. As long as the slaughter is supervised by Rabbinical supervision and the Chicken is processed a certain way, to drain the blood. I am tired of worrying over PETA attacking Jewish Butchers, that follow there law, in butchering and processing cows, sheep, lamb, etc. This is supposed to be done in a humane fashion also. I usually opt for chicken when I prepare meat for myself. Perdue advertises a good quality feed for their chickens, and a clean environment while they are alive. I guess anyone can mistreat livestock even before slaughter. Slaughtering methods, but conventional non Kosher Companies, have no policy regarding supervision of the slaughter of animals used for human consumption. Address these issues please. I need to eat some meat.

This is just animal rights

This is just animal rights cult mentality whereby they want to take away your right to eat meat totally and for right now drive up the costs to the point that you cannot afford to eat meat. This is dangerous to all human beings as meat is needed for active VB12 which helps your brain develop and to think rationally. Lack of VB12 the active kind found only in meat products causes irrational thinking and overly emotional response to situations is dangerous for all human beings. You only get inactive VB12 from a few plants and bacteria and this inactive kind does not work in the human body. You need to know that 16 infants from vegan parents have died even though these parents were told their children needed meat protein. These children starved to death. Their extreme vegan parents would not feed them any protein based foods based upon the PeTA and HSUS guidelines. This is a war they are imposing on all Americans and their goal is the elimination of our food source.


Did you even read the article? This has nothing to do with veganism! My family and I all eat meat, but we have made a conscious decision only to buy meat from human farms (there are very few). Not regulating these labels makes it extremely difficult for families like mine to know if the meat they are consuming was indeed raised humanely. This labeling issue and the humane treatment of livestock is an issue more pertinent to meat eaters than it is to vegans.

This is about false

This is about false advertisement! As a consumer, you have to know that it is not acceptable to mis-label our food! As stated in the article, there is no board overseeing the slaughter of chickens, and this claim of " humanely" raised is no different from the way conventional chickens are raised. Perhaps it is the case that you are unaware if what that industry is actually like? Or maybe you are. I reccommend doing some research if you are uncertain. So before you get mad at people for calling attention to this fabrication,continue to eat what you want, but don't deny health conscious and humane individuals the right to know how their food is raised. That is a civil liberty as far as I am concerned!

Driving up costs

In fact, what's going on here is that Perdue is using a false claim of "humane treatment" in an attempt to create a premium brand with a premium price tag. The rest of your post is too irrational to bother replying to.

People want to have their

People want to have their chicken humanely processed and changing the way our food source handles its meat is not wanting it eliminated.



animal rights

you really need to get your facts right fabrication of details to further the right wing agenda is just fascist tatics