A consortium of advocacy groups has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that food production giant Cargill makes "false and misleading claims about its turkey products" and "routinely exploits" the contract farmers and slaughterhouse workers it employs. More specifically, the complaint claims that Cargill's turkeys sold under the Shady Brook Farms and Honeysuckle White brands are not raised by "independent family farmers" — even though their labels say so.
Often referred to as an "agribusiness giant," Cargill is not a small operation. For context, Cargill, which was founded in 1865 and currently employs 186,000 people, is the second-largest privately held company in America today, according to Forbes, with $2.82 billion in earnings in fiscal year 2019. (Related: 8 Grocery Items That May Soon Be in Short Supply.)
The filing further alleges that Cargill misleads consumers about its "purportedly family-farmed products." Central to the "complaint requesting action to enjoin the dissemination of false or deceptive advertising by Cargill, Inc." is the assertion that the company "makes numerous representations that lead consumers to believe the turkeys used in its products are raised by 'independent family farmers.'"
"Cargill uses its 'independent family farmers' narrative to imply that the products have far-reaching benefits for workers, animals, and the environment," the document says.
The complaint, which was filed by the Richman Law Group on behalf of the nonprofit organizations Animal Equality, Family Farm Action Alliance, Mighty Earth, Organic Consumers Association, Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, and Venceremos, also assails Cargill for claiming to be a humane and eco-friendly company, when its turkeys are allegedly "kept in intensive, unsanitary confinement, where they are systematically mutilated and selectively bred to have debilitating health problems."
"Contrary to Cargill's representations that it delivers 'sustainable' products, it is consistently ranked as one of the largest polluters of air and waterways in the country," the filing claims.
Family Farm Action Alliance Vice President Angela Huffman said in a statement that the company "wields its corporate power to abuse contract turkey growers and slaughterhouse workers, animals, and the land. Cargill's advertising pulls the wool over consumers' eyes while stealing the market from independent family farmers."
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