A consumer has filed a putative class action against Foster Poultry
Farms, Inc. alleging that the company’s label misleads by displaying
an American Humane Association (AHA) certification logo because
that certification does not indicate a higher, more humane standard for
raising chickens. Leining v. Foster Poultry Farms, Inc., No. BC588044
(Cal. Super. Ct., filed July 13, 2015).

The complaint asserts that Foster Farms markets itself as a humane
producer of chicken products and charges higher prices accordingly. The
plaintiff believed that this marketing message communicated that the
chickens at Foster Farms “lived a life without disease and discomfort and
were afforded a quick and painless death.” She argues, however, “the AHA certification standards permit practices throughout all phases of
the production process that, if known, would not be considered humane
either by the reasonable consumer or even under the AHA’s own definition
of humane meat production.”

The complaint details each of Foster Farms’ alleged departures from
the plaintiff’s interpretation of humane treatment. AHA standards, she
argues, allow certified producers to (i) force female chickens to molt by
10 to 14 days of food deprivation, which apparently causes the chickens
to lose up to 25 percent of their body weight, (ii) grind live male chicks,
(iii) trim up to one-half of the beak tips, (iv) remove roosters’ combs
without anesthesia, (v) pierce the nasal septa of young breeding roosters
with a plastic stick, (vi) shackle the legs of chickens during preparation of
slaughter, and (vii) submit the chickens to “near-starvation levels of food
and water deprivation.” The plaintiff “does not reasonably consider any
of these practices to be consistent with her understanding of the humane
treatment signified by the American Humane® Certified label on the
Foster Farms chicken packages that she purchased.” She also points to
living conditions for the chickens as “inhumane and cruel,” including
allowed tolerances for diseases and ambient ammonia concentrations.

The plaintiff alleges that these practices amount to unfair competition,
negligent misrepresentation and breaches of warranty, and she seeks
class certification, an injunction against further labeling of Foster Farms
chicken as “humane,” restitution and damages, and attorney’s fees.


Issue 572

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.

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