Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

Kroger facing business litigation over 'humane' label on chicken

Many people are becoming more cognizant of the conditions under which farmed animals are raised, and seek out meat, dairy and egg products from animals raised in relatively humane, healthy conditions. They rely on labels to guide them not only to products that they can feel better about eating, but those with fewer chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and other potentially dangerous ingredients. However, labels do not always tell the truth.

A case that originated in Los Angeles should interest our readers here in Michigan who shop at Kroger. Plaintiffs are accusing the largest supermarket chain in the country of falsely labeling one of its store brands of chicken as being raised "in a humane environment" when in fact the birds were raised in the same conditions as other commercially-farmed chickens. The plaintiffs are attempting to get approval for a class action suit against Kroger.

The false labeling charge involves Kroger's "Simple Truth" chicken. This is one of the store's own brands. According to the company's Simpletruth.com site, the brand includes "delicious foods that represent the joy of eating closer to the way nature intended."

However, according to the lawsuit, the chickens sold under this brand are actually raised by Perdue Farms. Plaintiffs point out that Perdue uses standard commercial farming procedures that include things like electrically stunning the chickens before they are slaughtered.

Companies that produce and sell food need to be particularly vigilant about the accuracy of everything on their labels. Inaccurately-labeled food products can cause illness and harm to those who consume them. Moreover, as mainstream food manufacturers and retailers attempt to compete with natural food retailers, labels like "organic" and "natural" seem to be popping up everywhere, as are labels that attempt to assure people about humane farming conditions. Companies that do not accurately label their products can find themselves in the midst of costly business litigation, not to mention a public relations nightmare.

Source: The New York Times, "Suit Accuses Kroger of Deceit on How Poultry Was Raised" No author given, Feb. 12, 2014

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