As consumers prioritize animal welfare more highly when purchasing meat, more companies are claiming to hold their production facilities to high standards—and more plaintiffs are disagreeing. Advocacy groups have targeted multiple companies for their allegedly misleading marketing touting their humane housing or slaughtering practices. For example, the Organic Consumers Association and Food & Water Watch filed a lawsuit against Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. challenging the conditions of its chickens in its production plants. Facing a similar lawsuit, Hormel Foods Corp. won summary judgment when the D.C. Superior Court found the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s claims to be preempted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In addition, the European Court of Justice considered what slaughter methods could warrant an “organic” label, determining that cows must be stunned before they are slaughtered. The National Advertising Division also recommended changes to a marketing campaign following a complaint that Clemens Food Group used misleading language to describe its animal welfare efforts, including “Ethically Raised by Family Farmers Committed to a Higher Standard of Care, Governed by Third Party Animal Welfare Audits.”

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.