The Humane Society of the U.S. said one of its members sued Perdue Farms Inc. in New Jersey state court and accused the poultry producer of falsely advertising that chickens were raised humanely.
Nadine Hemy, who is seeking class-action, or group status in the lawsuit, alleges that the Salisbury, Maryland-based company is illegally marketing Perdue and Harvestland products with labels that say “humanely raised.” Perdue denied the allegation.
Perdue described its fresh and frozen chicken as having been raised humanely in order to profit from rising consumer awareness of the treatment of animals reared for meat production, Hemy said in the complaint filed yesterday in state court in Freehold, New Jersey.
Peter Brandt, an attorney for the society, said in a telephone interview that while the advocacy group is not a party in the lawsuit, its attorneys are assisting Hemy and her legal counsel with the case.
The animal-rights group is attempting to define humane treatment of chickens with “its own narrow, arbitrary standards,” Perdue said in a statement e-mailed to Bloomberg News by Luis A. Luna, the company’s vice president of corporate communications.
“Our chickens are raised cage-free on family farms in temperature-controlled housing with a continuous flow of fresh air, and they remain free to move about, with constant access to food and water,” the company said. The animals are sheltered from the elements, predators and disease, it said.
Review programs by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that the company is “exceeding the industry standards,” Perdue said. The company uses video monitoring at processing plants to ensure that humane standards are followed, according to the statement.
Tyson Foods Inc. is the largest U.S. chicken processor based on 2009 production, followed by JBS SA’s Pilgrim’s Pride and closely held Perdue Inc., according to WATT PoultryUSA, an industry publication.