08 July 2011

Perdue Farms launches $15 million 'Better Chicken' ad campaign

Perdue chickens spend their days skipping around the grassy farmyard with their fellow feathered friends and nibbling on lush organic marigolds.

…at least that’s what the marketing department at Perdue Farms wants you to think.

The giant chicken processor has launched a new $15 million ad campaign which features the slogan, "We Believe in a Better Chicken," in an attempt to address the growing concern from consumers about how factory-farmed chickens are raised.

"We know that today's consumers are interested in learning more about the food they eat,” said Jim Perdue, Chairman of Perdue Farms in a Huffington Post article. “They want to know how the chicken was raised and what it was fed."

The new ads make a number of claims about the high quality of Perdue chickens. They state that their chickens are fed an “all-vegetarian diet” with “no animal by-products, or animal fat” and that Perdue chickens are “always raised cage-free.”

The New York Times asked Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, what she thought about the claims being made by Perdue and she laughed.

This campaign “isn’t about safety or health: this is marketing hype,” she said. “Food chickens are usually not caged,” she said, and are “fed grain.” Also, the commercials “say nothing about whether they’re fed antibiotics,” she added.

In November of 2010 the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) launched a class action law suit against Perdue Farms over the company's alleged false advertising of factory farmed chicken products as "humanely raised."

In a news release announcing the suit, HSUS described a typical poultry slaughter operation. “Birds are first dumped or pulled from transport crates and hung upside down in shackles, often causing broken bones, bruising, and hemorrhaging. Next, they are shocked with electrified water; the majority are paralyzed but may not be rendered unconscious. Some miss the water tank and are therefore not immobilized. Birds then have their throats cut, but according to the USDA, millions miss the blade and drown in tanks of scalding water and may be conscious and able to feel pain.”

HSUS argued that “the standards upon which Perdue has based its ‘Humanely Raised’ claim are the so-called ‘Animal Welfare Guidelines’ set out by the National Chicken Council—the trade group for the chicken industry.”

Talk about the fox guarding the chicken coop!

Sara Best | @shbest
Sara was literally born into the animal welfare movement. While growing up, her father worked with various organizations on campaigns from the Canadian seal hunt to the slaughter of dogs in the Philippines to the ivory trade in Africa. Eventually, Sara became involved in animal protection projects herself. Now she is a writer living near Toronto, a mom to two little omnivores and married to one dedicated carnivore. Visit Sara's blog.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/brenderous