HSUS Fight Over Pilgrim's Pride Chicken Claims Expands to Seven States

Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. is facing a new front in its battle with the Humane Society of the United States over the way it raises, slaughters and sells its chickens.

The advocacy group said it’s following up on a December complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission by sending letters to seven state attorneys general asking them to investigate the company and its claims about how it treats animals. 

The group said that, despite Pilgrim’s pledges that its birds are treated “humanely,” they are instead raised in crowded barns and slaughtered through a method that can result in chickens being “drowned in scalding hot water while fully conscious.” 

In its filing with the FTC, the Humane Society alleged the company was misleading consumers with claims that its chickens are “raised, transported and processed as humanely as possible.” Last month, consumer advocacy groups Food & Water Watch Inc. and Organic Consumers Association filed a lawsuit that also alleged the company was engaged in deceptive marketing. At the time, Pilgrim’s Pride said it “strongly” disagreed with the lawsuit’s allegations.

Following the Humane Society’s FTC complaint, the company changed some of the language on its website, though it said the timing was a coincidence. On the website, passages from Pilgrim’s Pride’s 2016 and 2017 sustainability reports include references to its “uncompromising commitment” to humane animal welfare. Pilgrim’s Pride states on the site that it follows industry guidelines “designed to promote the humane treatment and well-being of poultry throughout the production process.”

The revised statements don’t remedy the problem, the Humane Society said. “They falsely convey to the reasonable consumer that birds in Pilgrim’s care are treated humanely,” the group wrote. On Friday, the Humane Society said it petitioned state attorneys general in Massachusetts, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, Illinois and Maryland, urging them to open investigations of their own.

The offices of the Maryland, Washington and Illinois attorneys general confirmed they received the letter but declined to comment. Florida and Massachusetts said they were reviewing the letter. Pennsylvania declined to immediately comment, while the Virginia attorney general’s office, the FTC, the National Chicken Council and Pilgrim’s Pride didn’t respond.

Cameron Bruett, a spokesman for Pilgrim’s Pride, a Greeley, Colorado-based subsidiary of Brazilian meat processing giant JBS SA, has previously rejected the Humane Society’s allegations. “Pilgrim’s is committed to the well-being of the poultry under our care,” Bruett wrote in an email in December. “We welcome the opportunity to defend our approach to animal welfare against these false allegations.”

John Villafranco, a specialist in advertising law at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, said the Humane Society is “covering all the bases.”

“They are pressing every venue to find one where there might be a regulator willing to take action,” he said in an interview.

The strategy has had success in the past: After a sustained campaign by the animal welfare group Compassion Over Killing, in 2005, the United Egg Producers reached an agreement with the FTC to change its “Animal Care Certified” logo to “United Egg Producers Certified.” The trade group settled with 16 states and the District of Columbia, agreeing to pay $100,000 to states in legal fees, consumer education and other costs.

 

Latest News

Nebraska Sandhills
Nebraska’s AL Ranch Listed

The AL Ranch, Halsey, NE, supports a 700-head cow-calf operation and has a backgrounding facility for 2,500-head. The ranch consists of 7,052 deeded acres and the balance in National Forest grazing permits.

2 days ago
Wareham's daughters helped him gather and sort cows recently.
Jared Wareham: Are Balanced Trait Genetics a Long-Term Answer?

Genetic progress has helped drive our industry forward and each segment along the value chain has benefited from advancements in genetics. Have we moved the needle enough with regard to total beef system profitability?

8 min ago
Angus VNR: Making Forward Progress

It's no secret market access is grounded in consumer demands. Dustin Aherin, RaboResearch analyst, shares supply-chain dynamics and what it means to the future.

2 hours ago
Josie, Josh and Gwen Hoy, Flying W Ranch
Hoy Family’s Flying W Ranch Receives Kansas Leopold Conservation Award

Josh and Gwen Hoy’s Flying W Ranch of Cedar Point has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Kansas Leopold Conservation Award®.

59 min ago
Cattle and hog feeding margins steady
Profit Tracker: Cattle, Hog Margins Steady

Cattle and hog feeding operations saw their margins remain modestly profitable last week with little movement in cash prices. Both cattle and hog feeding margins are higher than last year at the same time.

1 hour ago
Thanksgiving may look different in 2020, but farmers are still the focus.
Let’s Talk Turkey, Thanksgiving and Traditions

Thanksgiving may look different in 2020, but farmers are still the focus.

5 hours ago