Court: Tyson Can No Longer Claim Chickens Are "Raised Without Antibiotics"

Tyson Foods has 14 days to stop claiming that their chickens are “raised without antibiotics.” The deceptive nationwide campaign was brought to an end after rivals Sanderson Farms and Purdue filed suit claiming that all three poultry processors use antibiotics, and that Tyson was trying to steal an undeserved appearance of health.

The two companies jointly sought an injunction to stop Tyson’s ad campaign, arguing the “raised without antibiotics” claim misleads consumers by making it appear Tyson’s chicken is safer or more healthful.

Sanderson and Perdue initially based their legal challenge on Tyson’s practice of feeding chickens ionophores, an antibiotic used only in animals raised for food. Sanderson and Perdue also use ionophores.

Then during trial in federal court in Baltimore, Tyson officials acknowledged they also inject eggs several days before they hatch with antibiotics that are approved for use in humans. Dave Hogberg, Tyson’s senior vice president for consumer products, said it is a common industry practice.

Hogberg said injecting eggs with antibiotics did not undermine the “raised without antibiotic” label because the term “raised” is understood to cover the period that begins with hatching.

According to Tyson’s “Core Values,” they are a bunch of well-meaning folks “engaged in the production of food, seeking to pursue truth and integrity.” After the USDA initially cried foul over Tyson’s health claims, the pursuit of truth led Tyson to instead boast that their chickens are “raised without antibiotics that impact antibiotic resistance in humans.” At the time, Tyson said:

“We once again turned to consumers for their guidance and they told us this label more clearly conveys our chickens are not raised with any feed ingredients that could contribute to antibiotic resistance in humans,” said Dave Hogberg, senior vice president of Consumer Products Marketing for Tyson Foods. “The new labeling enables us to continue producing Raised Without Antibiotics chicken, which nine out of ten consumers say is important to them.”

Wow, that statement is just leaking with truth and integrity. Who ever would have guessed a federal court would brand Tyson as dishonest?

Court Orders Tyson to Suspend Ads For Antibiotic-Free Chicken [Washington Post]
Court says Tyson chicken antibiotic claims must stop [BarfBlog]
Tyson to Use New Label for Raised Without Antibiotics Chicken; Company and USDA agree to more informative wording (Press Release) [Tyson Foods]


Edit Your Comment

  1. BalknChain says:

    It’s shocking what food processors can get away with. Food has to be clearly labeled for the layman consumer. One example is caseinate which has to be identified as a milk derivitive. I can only imagine the potential fallout of this. It’s clearly un undeclared addition to the food, before the hatching or not.

  2. BalknChain says:

    BTW, Carey, again I’ll say how much I enjoy reading some of the food processing beat you/Consumerist cover. The stories I could tell you.

  3. mgy says:

    My favorite trick is if you have less than half a gram per serving of trans fat, you can claim your product is “trans fat free”

  4. chiieddy says:

    I’m trying an experiment in less processed chicken today. I’m getting some Fresh killed chicken for dinner tonight. Thing is, there’s no way to really tell how the chickens are raised before they get the axe.

  5. ByeBye says:

    The thing is, people actually see the labels and automatically think it is better. It’s like the rBGH thing on Milk – no difference. Oh well, that is how our crappy society is. This does not affect me or my wife, as we will still buy this chicken still as it still tastes better than most crap out there.

  6. sir_eccles says:

    @mgy: Such suspiciously small serving sizes too.

  7. RonDiaz says:

    @mgy: I agree, the 0 grams trans fat is BS. if you see the word hydrogenated in the ingredients there IS trans fat.

  8. azntg says:

    Busted! Damn… they mess with our food way too much in unimaginable ways. Sigh

  9. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    But how long will they claim to be “100% All Natural?”
    At least Capri Sun stopped claiming to be all natural.

  10. fredzorz says:

    Because I always try to eat healthy, and only organic, I have always thought of Tyson as a good brand, because they don’t use antibiotics. After this, I have no faith in any company anymore. Nice going, you morons. You’ve become one step closer to going back to the standards of The Jungle. []

  11. VikingP77 says:

    Tyson is a horrible company who treats their animals poorly! I never buy their products yuck!

  12. Amelie says:

    @mgy: While some producers are using it to put hydrogenated fats in their product, the ruling is necessary since dairy products naturally have trans fat. If you wonder why some croissants for example, don’t taste as good, its because they had to replace most of the butter with vegetable oil.

  13. thelushie says:

    @fredzorz: I agree with you. I am very disappointed and upset. I ate their chicken because it was raised with no anti-biotics. I guess companies lie. All I can say is that at least it was exposed.

  14. Amelie says:

    Tyson’s false labeling comes as no surprise to me. I assumed it was a lie when I saw the packaging in my store. On the other hand, this food labelling crime, pales in comparison to the fact that drug labels don’t have to indicate the country of origin of the ingredients. I would rather be eating Tyson chicken than taking ibuprofen that is partially or completely made in China.

  15. stinerman says:

    14 comments and no one mentioned the pun?

    After the USDA initially cried foul…

    Carey, I’m assuming that was intentional. Well done, sir!

  16. mgy says:

    @sir_eccles: Exactly – instead of lowering the trans fat, they just lowered the serving size. The FDA regulations are nothing more than a gigantic game.

  17. I clicked the first link in the links section (Boston’s Weekly Dig: November, 22, 2006: “Live Poultry Fresh Killed”) and got Rick Roll’d!

  18. ExecutorElassus says:

    I really like in the picture how both secondary claims (“No Hormones Administered,” “No Artificial Ingredients”) appear to have asterisks. Can anybody who buys this stuff say whether those asterisks link to explanations, or – what I suspect – some legalese disclaimer?

    “No Hormones!*”

    “*except the following…”

  19. BlogFather says:

    I don’t get it really. The people who buy Tyson chicken would have still bought it even without the bull shit claims.

  20. timmus says:

    Isn’t a $26 billion multinational corporation just able to tie up the legal system with appeals and settlements? Somehow I can’t picture them actually rolling over.

    Also agree about Tyson… we stopped buying them a few years ago after learning that they were nothing but a massive factory farm.

  21. Man, and I looooooove chicken. Better start just raisin’ me own coop….

  22. Murph1908 says:

    Perdue = Chicken Company

    Purdue = University

    Go Boilers

  23. @fredzorz: No offense intended, but I think these days it’s extremely important to use your judgment to determine whether or not to eat a food. The company puts things on the label in order to sell that product to you, so its in their best interest in today’s climate of pro-seasonal, pro-local, pro-organic to make their product sound as seasonal, local, organic, etc. as possible. Tyson is a big, big chicken “making” company, and as such, I would never really believe that they weren’t engaging in the nasty business associated with the business of factory farming. Before I buy (aka vote with your cash), I take a look at a company’s history, business model, and so on, and see if I can live with it. Otherwise, I figure I can live without those products. Hey, I could use more salads, plums and so an as much as the next girl.

  24. vasquire32 says:

    You guys are too funny. Everyone’s crying about these companies “messing with our food” but in reality, if they didn’t add these preservatives and antibiotics, the food we love to eat SO MUCH OF would cost a lot more.

  25. @vasquire32: I don’t eat chicken, but that’s really not the point. I would rather pay a larger percentage of my income for trustworthy food. In fact, I try to seek out local and so on whenever I can, at great cost, because I firmly believe those foods are more nourishing to my body. Perfect world? No. But I’d rather have eggs from a guy who knows the chicken and milk from the husband and wife who take care of the cows than consume factory farmed Frankenfoods.

  26. Odwalla says:

    Go Boilers!

  27. Shinzou says:

    To the person who asked what the asterisks were, I have some sitting in my fridge right now.

    The note for “no hormones administered” is “federal regulation prohibit the use of hormones in chicken”.

    The note for “no artificial ingredients” is “no artificial ingredients, minimally processed”.

    There you go.

  28. boxjockey68 says:

    we stopped buying Tyson after my 4 year old refused to eat some saying it tasted like paint,when I tasted it & realized it DID taste like paint, we called Tyson to see if there was a known problem or if they would want to find out what’s up…they could have cared less why their food tasted like paint so we haven’t trusted them since.

  29. @boxjockey68: That is really, really scary to me.

  30. robyns says:

    Agreed…I’ve pretty much stopped eating meat and dairy, and I prefer to buy local when I can. It gets expensive, so of course po’ folk get the shaft once again.

  31. @robyns: The whole money thing is completely true and completely sad. Healthy food should be accessible to everyone. Of course, the government shouldn’t subsidize cheap, processed, unhealthy food but it’s not like that’s asking a lot or anything.

  32. jeffjohnvol says:

    Tyson, WalMart and Bill Clinton. Is anything from Arkansas not full of lies? LOL. Beautiful state though.

  33. jeffjohnvol says:

    Tyson, WalMart and the Clintons. Is there anything honest that comes from that beautiful state (Arkansas)?

  34. jeffjohnvol says:

    sorry for the double post.

  35. Edward Lionheart says:

    This is so depressing. The federal government regulatory agency in charge of overseeing Tyson and its ilk didn’t raise this issue. It was other giant disgusting chicken plants that cried “fou(w)l!” The three could have gotten together and agreed to peddle the same bull (so to speak) and no government agency would have uttered a cheep-cheep. Anyway, those chickens taste horrible. I’d rather spend double for a bird that was not only treated (relatively) well but tastes like chicken.

  36. Kajj says:

    @generalhousewifery: Not everybody has that luxury. Let’s all remember that our cheap, industrialized food is what makes us one of the few countries on Earth where the poor don’t starve. I want healthier food too, but I try to remember that having more money to spend on something doesn’t make me a better person.

  37. kc2idf says:

    There is really only one question that should be considered here: Is Tyson’s claim true? If it is false, then smack ’em. If it is true, then it is up to the others to debunk the claim.

    That goes for rBGH, genetic modification and irradiation, too.

  38. chrisjames says:

    I like that Sanderson and Perdue stepped up and knocked the teeth out of Tyson’s claim, instead of making the same claim on their own product. The “we must stay competitive” loophole has made it too easy for companies to price fix without conspiracy, or in this case advertise deceptively. “If your competitors are doing something bad, then you may do it as well to devoid the consumer base of choice and save a quick buck,” forgetting the fact that you’d earn more business in the long run by working for consumer demand and against your competition.

  39. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    @vasquire32: But that doesn’t make it OK for them to lie about what they’re doing.
    Why should I believe that the antibiotics they use don’t “impact antibiotic resistance in humans” when they lied about using the antibiotics in the first place?

    They already had a disclaimer for the antibiotic statement. Would it have been so hard to add, “antibiotics given before hatching are safe for humans”?

  40. LibraryGeek says:

    While it would be great to know a country of origin — it is very complicated in the case of pharmaceuticals. Several country’s borders may be crossed in the process of making a pharmaceutical. Various inactive ingredients (making up the liquid, tablet powder, or capsuls that hold the medication) may come from more than one company, meanwhile another place will make the active ingrediants, then the actual medication may be made in yet another place and yet another company might be involved in the packaging and distribution. So, the question becomes — which country is the origin? That is why I think we need to better fund the FDA (they are horribly underfunded, mandates are passed and then not funded on a regular basis) and, in turn the FDA needs more inspectors in the field.

  41. lucy2 says:

    My son has allergies to antibiotics and it doesn’t matter whether the antibiotics are given to him or to a chicken or cow that he later eats. He does get bad reactions to both. We find that organic meat is the one way to have an uncontaminated food supply. Having eaten this way for years, I often wonder if people who eat regular chicken and beef have a resistance to the meds they’ve been taking for years. For some of us this isn’t optional.