As we’ve discussed before, many commonly used food labels like “organic” and “natural” can mean very little and are often just marketing lingo. Now the folks at Kroger are facing a potential class-action lawsuit that could determine whether its Simple Truth products lives up to the promises on the label.
Reuters reports that the suit was filed earlier this week in Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County. It alleges that California consumers have been misled by Kroger’s claims that the chickens used for Simple Truth poultry products are raised “in a humane environment” and “cage free,” when in fact — according to the complaint — these birds are raised in the same close confines that are standard for most chickens from large poultry farms.
“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’,” reads the complaint.
The Kroger website for Simple Truth products states that its standards for organic livestock are that “Producers must meet animal health and welfare standards, may not use antibiotics or growth hormones, must use 100% organic feed, and must provide animals with access to the outdoors.”
As is the case with most “free range” claims, it’s this “access to the outdoors” requirement that is the most problematic, as such labeling only mandates that the birds have some form of access to an outdoor area. There are currently no standards for the size of that exterior space or for the size of the door leading from the cage to the outdoors.
A rep for Kroger tells Reuters that, “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.”
Simple Truth chickens are produced for Kroger by poultry giant Perdue. The Simple Truth line of products, which encompasses everything from coffee to produce to steak, is usually sold at a premium to customers of the supermarket chain.