In a letter to Perdue Farms CEO Jim Perdue, Animal Welfare Institute President Cathy Liss demanded that the company end its use of what it believes is a misleading label, claiming that certain of its chicken products are 'Humanely Raised' and 'Raised Cage Free'.
In February, Perdue Farms introduced new product packaging bearing these claims for release in grocery stores. Animal Welfare Institue (AWI) asserts that the 'Humanely Raised' label misleads consumers about how Perdue treats chickens, and the 'Raised Cage Free' label deceptively suggests a special benefit, when in fact no producers raise meat chickens in cages.
AWI says that the letter launches AWI's effort to publicly expose Perdue for "using misleading labeling claims to manipulate consumers who are trying to make humane choices in the market place". Perdue, the country’s third largest poultry producer, raises its chickens according to standards that are no better than other industrial chicken producers, AWI continues.
“These standards, devised by Perdue and the National Chicken Council (NCC), a private industry group, are not humane under any reasonable consumer understanding of the term,” Liss remarked. “Perdue’s lip service to humane treatment, by way of these deceptive claims, is merely an attempt to profit from the growing number of consumers who seek a better alternative to factory-raised chicken.”
Deceptive labeling concerns
According to NCC guidelines, Perdue chickens raised for marketing under the ‘Humanely Raised’ label can be confined in windowless sheds with less than one square foot of space per bird. These standards do not require access to fresh air or sunlight. This approach to husbandry satisfies NCC poultry welfare criteria because it represents conventional industry practice, states AWI. But according to a recent national poll conducted for AWI by Edge Research, 70% of consumers said they think chicken labeled ‘Humanely Raised’ is produced under a standard of animal care that is better than typical chicken production practices. Moreover, 65% of those who frequently shop for chicken meat said the practice of housing chickens in sheds with less than one square foot of space per bird is totally unacceptable, said AWI.
Perdue’s new label and promotional materials also deceive consumers by boasting the term ‘Raised Caged Free.’ “Meat chickens are not and have never been raised in cages under any typical industrial or small-scale production systems in the US,” remarked Dena Jones, AWI farm animal program manager. “Perdue’s ‘Raised Caged Free’ claim serves no other purpose than to capitalize on the popularity of the ‘cage free’ label for eggs by exploiting the average consumer’s unfamiliarity with modern animal husbandry."
AWI’s letter urged Perdue to take meaningful steps toward ensuring the welfare of its chickens but demanded that, until then, Perdue stop obscuring informed choice in the supermarket.