Animal Welfare and Organic Integrity
Direct Action Everywhere, a non-profit focused on protecting animal welfare, and a California consumer representing a putative class brought suit against Diestel Turkey Ranch for the false advertising of its turkey products. Diestel Turkey Ranch is a California-based turkey farm that markets and advertises its turkey products as “Thoughtfully Raised,” “Range-Grown,” “Slow Grown,” and “ Thoughtfully Raised on Sustainable Farms,” among other slogans evocative of humane animal-raising practices. In its advertising, Diestel also invites the public to visit its picturesque turkey ranch in Sonora, where guests can watch as turkeys freely roam the sprawling, green pastures in the foothills of Northern California, creating the impression that all of Diestel’s turkeys are raised in such idyllic conditions. However, the complaint alleges that the company intentionally omits the fact that many of Diestel’s turkeys are actually housed in industrial barns in facilities located miles away from the idyllic Sonora Ranch. The complaint further alleges, conditions at these off-site facilities, which are not open to public scrutiny, are no different from typical agro-industrial conditions, and include overcrowded poultry barns and inhumane conditions with insufficient space for birds to engage in natural behaviors. These conditions are certainly not those expected at a ranch at which turkeys are “Thoughtfully Raised.” With its misrepresentations, the complaint alleges, Diestel is misleading consumers who seek humanely-raised turkeys and unjustly profiting off of their willingness to pay a premium for turkeys that are more ethically produced. The complaint seeks injunctive relief, including an order requiring Diestel to cease the deceptive marketing of its turkey products and requiring them to conduct a corrective advertising campaign, as well as direct financial relief for consumers.
Direct Action Everywhere SF Bay Area, et al. v. Diestel Turkey Ranch
- EcoWatch, 11/18/17 – “Popular Diestel Turkey Sold at Whole Foods Tests Positive for FDA-Prohibited Drugs”
- Truth-Out, 3/9/17 – “False Advertising Lawsuit Against Major Whole Foods Supplier”
- Union Democrat, 2/8/17 – “Animal-rights group sues Mother Lode turkey ranch”
- Direct Action Everywhere Press Release
The Organic Consumers Association, a non-profit organization, filed suit against Handsome Brook Farm® alleging that the company knowingly deceived customers regarding its animal welfare standards by selling non-pasture raised eggs and falsely labeling them as “Pasture Raised.” Subsequently, Vital Farms, Inc., a competing producer of pasture-raised eggs, also brought suit against Handsome Brook Farm under the Lanham Act, alleging that the company’s misleading advertising and deceptive practices, particularly those relating to pasture-raised standards, are what allowed them to charge lower prices and usurp customers and profits from Vital Farms. As public awareness has grown regarding the inhumane treatment of animals raised for food, and especially the conditions in which many caged egg-laying hens are kept, consumer demand for humanely produced and pasture-raised eggs has grown. Vital Farms has been ethically producing and selling pasture-raised eggs since 2008. The complaints allege that Handsome Brook Farm®, who has been selling pasture-raised eggs since 2009, falsely advertises and markets its eggs as exclusively “pasture-raised” when in fact its products include eggs from hens who were not pasture-raised. Within a few years, Handsome Brook Farm® grew its egg production and distribution operations from a single flock to hundreds of thousands of hens within its supply chain. This rate of growth is staggering, and unknown among egg distributors who engage in humane, organic, or other quality-control practices beyond basic agro-industrial animal husbandry. The complaints allege that Handsome Brook Farm® accomplished this by selling eggs from contract farmers that did not raise their hens in accordance with “pasture-raised” standards. The Organic Consumers Association seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, including an order requiring Handsome Brook Farm® to cease its misleading marketing practices and to disseminate corrective advertising. Vital Farms seeks similar declaratory and injunctive, in addition to monetary relief.
Vital Farms, Inc. v. Handsome Brook Farm, LLC, et al.
Organic Consumers Association v. Handsome Brook Farm, LLC, et al.
- New York Times, 1/31/17 – “What to Make of Those Animal-Welfare Labels on Meat and Eggs”
- Legal NewsLine, 11/16/16 – “Egg distributor dealing with litigation after obtaining injunction”
- Cornucopia, 8/30/16 – “OCA Sues Handsome Brook Farm Over Pasture-Raised Claims”
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit animal advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit against Hormel® Foods Corporation, alleging that the company is misleading consumers with their advertising of the Natural Choice® product line of lunch meats and bacon. The complaint alleges that, with the slogan “Make the Natural Choice” and repeated claims that its Natural Choice® products are “100% Natural” and “All-Natural,” Hormel® misleads consumers into believing that it does not raise animals in inhumane, industrial, pharmaceutical-driven factory farm conditions. However, the complaint further alleges, Hormel’s® “natural” meats actually come from the same pigs and the same giant, factory slaughterhouses that are used for the company’s other products, such as canned Spam®. Prior to filing the lawsuit, the Animal Legal Defense Fund exposed Hormel’s® factory farming practices through an undercover investigation of one of Hormel’s® largest suppliers. The investigation documented the suppliers’ treatment of the animals, including a lack of veterinary care, multiple days without food, and intense confinement. The Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief to end Hormel’s® deceptive marketing and advertising practices.
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Hormel Foods Corporation
- Bloomberg, 6/30/2016 – “What’s ‘All Natural’ Meat? Hormel Is About to Find Out”
- The New Republic, 6/30/2016 – “The Stomach-Turning Truth Behind Hormel’s “Natural” Pork”
- Fox News, 7/1/2016 – “Hormel Sued Over Its ‘Misleading’ Use of the Term ‘Natural’ on Meat Products”
- Animal Legal Defense Fund Press Releases – “Hormel Sued for Deceptive & Misleading Advertising of So-called ‘Natural’ Products” and “Court Greenlights Deceptive Advertising Case Against Hormel “Natural Choice” Products”
Three non-profit organizations filed suit against the country’s third largest poultry producer, Sanderson Farms®, Inc., for falsely advertising products that contain unnatural substances as “100% Natural.” Sanderson Farms® claims its chicken products are “100% Natural” and “nothing but chicken,” but recent testing conducted by the United State Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service found a shocking number of instances in which residues of synthetic drugs, which are not “100% Natural,” appeared in samples of Sanderson Farms® chicken. Substances include antibiotics (many of which are medically important for humans), steroids, hormones, and even ketamine, a drug with hallucinogenic effects. By marketing these products as “100% Natural,” the complaint alleges, Sanderson Farms® misleadingly suggests that consumers are not ingesting synthetic drugs or other chemicals, and that no antibiotics or other pharmaceuticals are utilized in the raising of their chickens. While Sanderson Farms® relies upon images of idyllic farming in its marketing, the presence of these contaminants is illustrative of farming practices that do not prioritize animal welfare, public health, or environmental sustainability. Plaintiffs seek injunctive relief to end Sanderson Farms’® deceptive marketing and advertising practices.
- Law360, 2/9/18 – “Sanderson Farms Must Face ‘100% Natural’ Suit”
- Law360, 6/23/17 – “Sanderson Poultry Hit With Suit On ‘100% Natural’ Claim”
- Bloomberg, 6/22/17 – “There Could Be Ketamine in Your ‘Natural’ Chicken”