Pilgrim’s Pride Drops Some Chicken Welfare Claims Amid ‘Scalding’ Complaint

The Humane Society accused the poultry producer of misleading consumers about how it treats birds, many of which are allegedly scalded alive.


By Deena Shanker, Bloomberg

January 9, 2019


In the days following an 81-page complaint filed with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleging “misleading” descriptions of its animal welfare standards, industrial poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride changed some of the wording on its website.


As recently as last month, the company pledged that its chickens were “raised with the highest standards” and bred in “the best possible growout conditions.” Then, in a Dec. 12 complaint, the Humane Society of the United States alleged that such assurances were misleading. Citing undercover investigations, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection records and whistleblower accounts, the organization argued that, contrary to company statements about implementing the highest possible standards, the majority of birds raised and slaughtered for it suffer cruel and inhumane treatment.


The group said most Pilgrim’s Pride chickens spend the majority of their lives in filthy, dark barns—and are sometimes scalded alive during slaughter.


Pilgrim’s Pride says it was a coincidence that, within 10 days of the FTC filing, it took down its website, Pilgrims.com, and unveiled a lightly redesigned successor, PilgrimsUSA.com. While much of the language used is similar or the same as the earlier iteration, some statements at issue in the Humane Society complaint—including those above—have been dropped or toned down.


On the Frequently Asked Questions page, for example, instead of assuring consumers that birds are raised “with the highest standards,” the company now simply ensures “that birds are treated humanely and raised with care.”


Cameron Bruett, a Pilgrim’s Pride spokesperson, told Bloomberg “the website update has been in the works for several months and has no connection to the complaint.”


Attorney John E. Villafranco, who practices advertising law at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, said concern over potential litigation may be an explanation for the timing.


“Advertisers may make changes in response to a complaint to limit liability down the road,” he said, adding that it’s unlikely the change was the result of any FTC directive, given how recently the Humane Society complaint was filed. FTC investigations are confidential and can yield a wide range of outcomes. An FTC spokesperson wasn’t available for comment, according to an automatic email response, because of the partial government shutdown...


... Greeley, Colorado-based Pilgrim’s Pride, a unit of Brazilian meat processing giant JBS SA, has rejected the Humane Society’s allegations...