Class Clucks at Perdue’s ‘Humane’ Chicken Tag

     ORLANDO (CN) – Perdue Farms defrauds consumers about the “purportedly ‘humane’ treatment of chickens” it sells under the Harvestland brand, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “purported endorsement” of that labeling, a consumer claims in a federal class action.
     Perdue is the nation’s third-largest chicken producer, reporting more than $4.5 billion in annual revenue from nearly 60 million pounds of chicken, according to publicly available information.
     In the lawsuit, lead plaintiff Wendy Roy claims: “Looking to profit from growing consumer awareness of, and concern with, the treatment of farm animals raised for meat production, Perdue engaged in a deceptive and misleading marketing scheme to promote its fresh and frozen chicken as having been raised ‘humanely,’ as endorsed by the USDA, and as superior to the mass-produced chicken of its competitors.”
     Perdue has labeled its Harvestland chicken as “Humanely Raised” and “USDA Process Verified” since September 2009, but “(t)hese representations by Perdue are false and misleading,” Roy claims.
     She says the “Humanely Raised” and “USDA Process Verified” claims are based on the National Chicken Council’s guidelines, and the National Chicken Council is a trade group for the chicken industry.
     “The NCC Guidelines essentially codify industry norms, are designed to maximize efficiency and profit, and do not ensure humane treatment. Indeed, chickens produced pursuant to those guidelines are systematically subjected to extreme pain and duress,” Roy says in the complaint.
     It continues: “In order to encourage low production costs, the NCC Guidelines endorse and justify a system of mechanized brutality that routinely inflicts intense duress and pain on chickens, as discussed in more detail below. These practices fall far below the level of treatment that Plaintiff and other reasonable consumers find ‘humane.’
     “The NCC Guidelines are followed by virtually every other mass chicken producer in the nation. Unlike Perdue, however, no other mass chicken producer makes claims on their chicken packaging for the uniqueness of its chicken based on the company’s adherence to the NCC Guidelines. Only Perdue misrepresents to consumers that its chickens are raised differently, and more humanely, than competitors’ chickens in this manner.
     “Plaintiff and consumers were, and consumers continue to be, deceived by Perdue’s marketing claims.”
     Roy seeks class certification, restitution disgorgement of unjust profits, costs and damages for deceptive and unfair trade, fraud in the inducement, breach of express warranty and negligent misrepresentation.
     She is represented by Jeffrey Ostrow with Kopelowitz Ostrow, of Fort Lauderdale.

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