A proposed class action lawsuit alleges that a chicken company committed false and deceptive practices by labeling its meat as “humanely raised.”
Perdue Farms, the target of the complaint, claims the lawsuit was spurred by the Humane Society of the United States as a way of attacking its brands.
“The HSUS takes exception to all forms of animal agriculture and promotes a radical animal rights agenda,” according to a statement from the company.
The complaint said it was filed by a consumer, Wendy Roy of Palm Bay, Fla., on behalf of other chicken buyers who were misled by the “humanely raised” labels.
Perdue Farms is trying to profit from “growing consumer awareness” of animal handling issues with a marketing scheme that exaggerates the humane treatment of its chickens, the complaint said.
The company bases its “humanely raised” claims on animal welfare guidelines developed by an industry group, the National Chicken Council, that condone “a system of mechanized brutality,” the complaint said.
The guidelines “are followed by virtually every other mass chicken producer in the nation,” but only “Perdue misrepresents to consumers that its chickens are raised differently, and more humanely, than competitors’ chicken in this manner,” the complaint said.
The lawsuit requests to be classified as a class action, which would allow other consumers to join the litigation. The complaint also asks for an injunction against the allegedly deceptive labels and restitution for consumers who have bought the chicken.
In a statement, Perdue Farms said the lawsuit falsely claims there is no difference between its welfare program and common industry practices.
The company said its practices exceed the NCC guidelines, with chickens receiving additional air quality monitoring and video monitoring of the processing plant.
“All of our chickens are raised cage-free on family farms,” the statement said. “They live in temperature-controlled housing with fresh air ventilation, where they are protected from disease, predators and the elements.”
The company’s chickens are also able to move and “exhibit natural behaviors,” with light and dark cycles meant to “ensure resting periods,” the statement said.
A previous lawsuit that made similar allegations was filed more than two years ago in New Jersey and is still pending.
A federal judge dismissed some of the claims against Perdue Farms in 2011 but allowed the litigation to continue when the plaintiff filed an amended complaint.
Earlier this year, another federal judge rejected arguments by Perdue Farms that the lawsuit should be dismissed.