No matter how much those in the poultry industry want it to, the phrase “hormone-free chicken” just doesn’t seem like it will go away.
But the problem is, the myth about hormone use in poultry production is at least partially being perpetuated by the companies that market poultry products.
General Mills, the parent company of soup maker Progresso, is one of those companies guilty of that. In September, General Mills issued a press release stating that it is “now using only 100 percent antibiotic- and hormone-free chicken breasts in all of its 36 chicken soup varieities.”
While the Progresso announcement was made one month ago, it continues to make headlines. Trend Hunter blogger Katherine Pendrill apparently read that news release and further perpetuated the myth. Pendrill wrote about Progresso’s news on October 24. And wouldn’t you know, the headline on the blog made no mention of the true news behind the Progresso decision – that it would be eliminating the use of chicken raised with antibiotics, which unlike hormones, are allowed in poultry production.
Pendrill clearly shows her lack of understanding in her first paragraph. It reads: “In response to changing consumer preferences and growing fears about antibiotic resistance, Progresso has announced that is (sic) will now use hormone-free chicken breasts in its canned soups. As the largest retail soup brand in the U.S., Progresso’s latest move demonstrates a major industry shift.”
This statement alone makes me ask two things:
- How exactly would hormone use lead to antibiotic resistance?
- How can not doing what was already not done be a major industry shift?
I'm pretty sure I already know the answer to those two questions.
Addressing the misconception
Pendrill is not alone in her false assumption that hormones are used in poultry production. In fact, it was revealed at the Chicken Marketing Summit in July that 77 percent of U.S. consumers believe that there are added hormones/steroids present in most chickens. 77 percent. That means there are more than three times as many people who are misinformed than there are people who know the truth.
We need to work harder to share the true message. If you need help with the way you phrase it, you can look to the National Chicken Council’s Chicken Check-In website. It states: “You might be surprised to learn that there are no artificial or added hormones used in the production of U.S. chicken. In fact, the use of such hormones is expressly forbidden by law by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Note: Labels that read: “Raised without hormones” must also include a statement saying that no hormones are used in the production of any poultry raised in the United States.”
This may sound like an old adage, but Progresso and Trend Hunter prove that it remains true: The poultry industry must tell its story, or someone else will tell it for them.