Perdue Faces Pushback Over Misleading Meat Labels

PETA Says Deceptive New Labels Won’t Woo Savvy Millennials

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2018

Audrey Shircliff 202-483-7382

Salisbury, Md.

Reacting to Perdue’s new campaign to reach millennials with the launch of its new meat labels, PETA sent a letter to the company’s chief marketing officer this morning pointing out that millennials—who value transparency and are going vegan at a sky-high rate—won’t fall for the claims that its factory-raised chickens are getting some sort of special treatment, when they’re not.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—notes that chickens raised for their flesh are never raised in cages, despite what’s implied by Perdue’s messaging proudly touting “cage-free” conditions as some sort of breakthrough. Instead, the birds are crammed by the tens of thousands into windowless sheds. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture banned the use of hormones and steroids in chickens in the 1950s, which makes Perdue’s claim on its labels that the meat it sells is hormone- and steroid-free meaningless—other than to mean “we abide by the law.” The final fake on the label is the happy cartoon chicken enjoying the sunshine, something that Perdue’s chickens see for the only time in their lives as they’re being crammed into crates on the truck that takes them from the factory farm to the slaughterhouse.

“Millennials want vegan products, so these misleading labels are a mystifying choice if the goal is to get them to think that it’s OK to eat miserable, factory-farmed chickens,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA is urging Perdue to stop slapping happy faces on packages containing tortured birds’ bodies and start producing cruelty-free foods that stand up to ethical scrutiny.”

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PETA’s letter to Perdue follows.

September 19, 2018

Eric Christianson

Chief Marketing Officer

Perdue Farms

Dear Mr. Christianson,

I’m writing on behalf of PETA and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide about the new packaging that Perdue just introduced. Pretty slick stuff!

When you say that chicken meat has “No Hormones or Steroids Added,” you must be hoping that consumers haven’t a clue that this has been the case since the 1950s, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture banned both. And when you report that the chickens were “Raised Cage Free,” you must be hoping that consumers don’t know that chickens raised for their flesh aren’t ever kept in cages. Instead, they’re crammed by the tens of thousands into sheds, where they live amid their own accumulated droppings and are allotted a space often no bigger than the size of a standard sheet of paper—an inhumane practice that Perdue itself developed.

What a brilliant stroke to create “Pearl,” your cartoon chicken, and to depict her alongside whimsical greenery when the chickens you actually raise—all gentle, inquisitive birds—will never see, much less set foot on, a pasture during their short, wretched lives. After being raised in warehouse-like sheds, they’re grabbed by the legs and stuffed into transportation crates, which often breaks a wing or inflicts a wound, then slammed upside down on shackle hooks so that their throats can be slit. The chickens you sell are slaughtered before they’re even 2 months old—they’re mere babies. Why not tell consumers that the birds’ natural life expectancy is 10 to 15 years?

Millennials prize transparency and truth, so if Perdue is “contemporizing” to try to reach young people, as you recently stated, they won’t appreciate being misled. This generation wants humane, healthy, environmentally friendly plant-based foods, and with sales of those items projected to reach $5.2 billion within two years, it’s no surprise that the chair of Perdue—when asked recently about investment in the non-animal protein market—said, “That’s where consumers are going.”

Perdue has already seen the writing on the wall, but its attempt to put a happy face on the carcasses of tortured chickens won’t win younger consumers over. Moreover, it is—to put it politely—misleading. The future, Mr. Christianson, is in producing cruelty-free vegan food. As for the packaging, you seem intent to prove that sometimes ugly things come in pretty packages.


Tracy Reiman
Executive Vice President

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