Lawsuit Accuses Hormel Of Using Meaningless ‘Natural’ Descriptor For Deli Meat

When you see a label that says “natural” on your meat, you might make some assumptions about what’s in it. Doesn’t that label mean meat that doesn’t have preservatives or artificial colors, that comes from animals raised without growth-promoting hormones or antibiotics? Well, no, it doesn’t necessarily mean that, and a recent lawsuit from the Animal Legal Defense Fund calls Hormel out on its labeling advertisements for their meats.

Yes, that’s the same Hormel that owns organic meat brand Applegate Farms, but this lawsuit [PDF] is about Hormel’s own trendy Natural Choice line of lunch meats. The suit, filed by animal rights group the Animal Legal Defense Fund, asks why the line is marketed as having the features customers expect in “natural” products, but contains plant-derived preservatives and comes from the same meat supply as Hormel’s other products.

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“Contrary to Hormel’s branding campaign,” the ALDF explained in a press release explaining the lawsuit, “meats the company advertises as ‘natural’ actually [come] from animals raised in the worst factory farms that employ additives, hormones and antibiotics, and contain ingredients that constitute artificial preservatives.”

Like what? The group claims that the packaging claims meats are free of nitrates and nitrites, common processed meat preservatives, but that Hormel uses celery juice powder, a product that sounds natural, but is just a rich source of nitrate.

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The lawsuit especially focuses on the company’s pork products, since the ALDF recently posted undercover videos from a supplier that breeds pigs bound for Hormel products. The group claims that pigs that become Hormel’s Natural Choice bacon come from the same supply as Hormel’s regular bacon, and that these pigs are treated with sub-therapeutic but growth-promoting doses of antibiotics.

The group alleges that Hormel is breaking District of Columbia consumer protection law, and filed their suit in Washington, DC.

What’s ‘All Natural’ Meat? Hormel is About to Find Out [Bloomberg]