Sanderson Farms’ “100% Natural” Label is False and We’re Suing

Sanderson Farms’ “100% Natural” Label is False and We’re Suing

As consumers, we have more choices than ever before when it comes to the food we eat and the products we purchase. That’s a wonderful thing, but there are now also a multitude of labels on animal products, and that becomes a big problem when labels don’t mean what they think we mean. Sanderson Farms has been misleading its consumers with “100% Natural” labels on the meat from chickens it raises and kills, and we’re suing to put a stop to it. 

Seeing “100% Natural” on a label might seem like the same thing as “Organic,” which has to meet certain guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It may also conjure up notions of animals who are given the opportunity to express their natural behaviors and spend time outside. Or it may reinforce the idea that these products come from animals who are given natural feed, and are not fed or injected with antibiotics or other drugs. But in reality, this misleading label means nothing at all to the animal victims of Sanderson Farms.

Unfortunately, the “100% Natural” label refers to how meat is processed after animals are brutally killed, not to how they are raised, treated or fed beforehand. It has no significance for animal welfare whatsoever. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service states that its "jurisdiction starts at the time of slaughter, not during the raising of the animal.”

This label has simply become yet another way to get consumers to pay more for a product that comes from animals raised just as they would be on any other factory farm — confined with little space, warehoused in dark sheds by the thousands, denied anything they need to thrive, and pumped full of antibiotics. 

This tactic is otherwise known as humane-washing. It’s a deceptive and unethical way to convince us we’re buying something we can feel good about when we otherwise would not, and we usually pay extra for it. 

Producers like Sanderson Farms, which is the third largest producer of chickens in the U.S., are taking full advantage of this, and us, which is why we’re suing to stop them. 

In partnership with environmental advocacy organization Friends of the Earth, we’ve filed a lawsuit on the grounds that Sanderson Farms is breaking laws that govern unfair competition and false advertising. 

The company, which raises and slaughters 500 million chickens every single year, routinely advertises the meat it produces as “100% Natural,” when it also routinely gives chickens antibiotics and raises them in factory farm conditions.

If we win, Sanderson Farms will have to engage in a corrective advertising campaign and publicly own the fact that it’s been lying about its production methods.

While we will always advocate for chickens and the rights of farmed animals to live free from exploitation, this is a very important issue that also affects us.  The wide-spread use of antibiotics in animal agriculture is a serious threat to our own health, even if we never eat animals or products made through their exploitation.

Meat producers regularly use antibiotics to accelerate growth and prevent diseases that are common in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions found on factory farms. Animals who regularly receive low doses of antibiotics become reservoirs for antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. These “superbugs” can be spread to other animals, and to humans who eat or handle animal products, or who are exposed to water supplies that have been tainted by pollution runoff from farms. 

If the current pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that this is a serious public health issue that we don’t want to have to deal with ever again. However, in this case, we can prevent the spread of another animal-borne disease if we act now. 

While we wait for this lawsuit to play out in court, you can help right now by ditching animal products from your diet if you haven't already. If you’re ready to get started, download our free Veg Starter Guide.  

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