Groups allege Cargill makes false claims about turkey

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), alleging that Cargill has made false advertising and marketing claims concerning its Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkey products.

Roy Graber Headshot
(Cargill)
(Cargill)

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have filed a complaint with the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC), alleging that Cargill has made false advertising and marketing claims concerning its Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms turkey products.

The complaint was filed with the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection’s Division of Advertising Practices. Richman Law Group filed the complaint on behalf of the NGOs Family Farm Action Alliance, Venceremos, Mighty Earth, Animal Equality, Organic Consumers Association, and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project.

The center of the complaint is that the NGOs believe Cargill’s claims that the turkeys are raised by “independent family farmers,” which those filing the complaint do not believe to be true.

The complaint, dated November 23, alleges: “Cargill uses its ‘independent family farmers’ narrative to imply that the products have far-reaching benefits for workers, animals and the environment. As set forth in the complaint, Cargill is egregiously misleading consumers with these representations, because the products are in fact produced on large, corporate-controlled factory farms. Far from the bucolic family farms portrayed by Cargill’s marketing, Cargill’s actual production methods exploit contract farmers and slaughterhouse workers, systematically abuse animals, and cause great harm to the environment.”

In addition, the complaint alleges Cargill falsely claims it treats its workers with a safe workplace, that its turkeys are allowed to express natural behaviors on the farms, and that the company uses practices that are sustainable.

Cargill responds

Cargill disputed the allegations, and in a statement, explained why its claims are true.

The company stated: "Cargill conducts business in a legal, ethical and responsible manner. We believe the claims lack merit and are proud to offer our customers and consumers safe, wholesome and great tasting turkey products they have come to know and trust. Cargill has worked with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop an audited process verified program for turkey production that exceeds all current governmental and industry standards and allows certain claims to be used on product packaging that utilizes Cargill turkeys including:

  • Turkeys are raised with no antibiotics used for growth promotion – antibiotics only used for treatment & prevention of illness
  • By Independent farmers
  • By producers trained on animal handling practices

"This includes our Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms  brand turkeys which have been USDA Process Verified since May 2015."

Cargill Protein, headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, is the third largest turkey company in the United States, according to the WATTPoultry.com Top Companies Database. In 2019, the company slaughtered an estimated 915 million pounds of live turkeys, the same amount it slaughtered in 2018. Cargill’s turkey operation includes locations in Virginia, Minnesota, Arkansas, Nebraska, Texas and Missouri.

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