Op-Ed: Kroger being sued for lying about their 'Simple Truth' chicken

Posted Feb 13, 2014 by Karen Graham
Consumers are having a hard enough time just trying to stay informed of the next meat or poultry recall news. Now we are being hit with the news that a nationally known grocery store has been telling lies about their chicken products. What's next?
A commercial meat chicken production house in Florida  USA. April 3  2008.
A commercial meat chicken production house in Florida, USA. April 3, 2008.
Larry Rana-USDA
Kroger Company, the country's largest supermarket business is facing a lawsuit that claims the supermarket has been deceiving customers, marketing a store brand chicken as being "humanely raised chicken products." The poultry was actually raised under regular poultry production standards, according to the lawsuit.
The class-action lawsuit was filed late on Tuesday this week in the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County. The class-action complaint is against Kroger "for allegedly misleading California consumers with claims about the grocer's "Simple Truth" premium-priced store brand of chicken."
According to the complaint: "Looking to profit from growing consumer awareness of, and concern with, the treatment of farm animals raised for meat production, Kroger engaged in a deceptive and misleading marketing scheme to promote its 'Simple Truth' store brand chicken as having been sourced from chickens raised 'cage free in a humane environment."
Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey told reporters on Wednesday he had not yet had the opportunity to review the lawsuit, but defended Kroger, saying "What we have on our Simple Truth chicken label is information for our customers that we believe is accurate, and we intend to vigorously defend our label."
The deception referred to in the lawsuit is referenced in this sentence, that "Simple Truth" chicken products were packaged with labeling that stated the animals were raised "in a humane environment" and "cage free."
"Simple Truth" is one of Kroger Company's own store brands. Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic were very successful when they were first introduced, helping Kroger get the 2013 Retailer of the Year award. A new strategy Kroger is trying concentrates on a specific group of products, as in the "Simple Truth" line.
Gil Phillips, vice-president of corporate brands for Kroger, said the Simple Truth line grew out of customer needs and conversations. Customers indicated they wanted less confusing categories in products, as well as less preservatives and other things in the products.
Here's what many consumers, and Kroger customers do not know. Those "Simple Truth" broiler chickens are produced by Perdue Farms, the third largest chicken producer in the country. (I know readers have seen their commercials on television, especially the ones about their "range-free" humanely raised chickens.) And here the story gets strange, because apparently, Perdue is not exactly telling the simple truth either.
Guess what, folks? On May 21, 2010, The Animal Welfare Institute squealed on Perdue Farms, telling the public that the company's "humanely-raised" chickens were basically raised the way other chickens were raised, in big, crowded, smelly, dimly-lit buildings. Perdue is basing it's claims of raising their chickens humanely using guidelines issued by the National Chicken Council's (NCC) animal welfare guidelines.
The NCC's guidelines allow for one square foot per bird. There are no requirements that the birds have natural light or access to the outdoors. The NCC does require the chickens have four hours of darkness, for sleep, but does not say the four hours have to be consecutive. These guidelines do not create the picture of a chicken roaming a pasture full of green grass.
So while Kroger is selling Perdue chicken products under their own store brand label, "Simple Truth," the chicken the customer is purchasing is just like any other chicken, and certainly nothing so extraordinary that a "Special Price" needs to be paid for it.