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Pilgrim's Pride Sued Over 'Natural' Chicken Labels

The litigation follows a complaint filed in December with the Federal Trade Commission about its “humane” animal treatment claims.

American consumers willingly pay more for foods labeled as “natural,” “organic” or “humane.” Food companies took notice long ago, adding such pledges to all manner of products. But it can be challenging for shoppers to figure out whether those promises are real or empty branding. 

A lawsuit against chicken giant Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. filed by advocacy groups Food & Water Watch Inc. and Organic Consumers Association turns on this very question. And they filed it in what’s arguably one of the most consumer-friendly courts in America. 

At issue is the Greeley, Colorado-based company’s marketing claims that its birds are fed “only natural ingredients,” treated humanely and produced in an environmentally responsible way, according to a complaint filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia in Washington.

The company’s practices don’t live up to those claims, the plaintiffs alleged. The birds live in crowded, unsanitary warehouses, are abused by employees and have debilitating health conditions due to their breed, which was developed to grow fast, according to court papers. They’re raised with the help of routine use of antibiotics to promote growth and fed genetically modified organisms, the advocacy groups alleged in the filing. 

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