WASHINGTON- The debate over “all-natural” will now go into litigation.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit on June 29 in Washington, DC, Superior Court against Hormel Foods, alleging the company is misleading consumers through the advertising of its Natural Choice brand of lunch meats and bacon.

“Meat companies like Hormel have been quick to pounce on misconceptions about what ‘natural’ means,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells in a statement. “As an organization dedicated to transparency in animal agriculture and truth in meat advertising, the Animal Legal Defense Fund is standing up to vindicate the rights of deceived consumers and to prevent Hormel from wrongfully gaining an advantage over more humane farms.”

The case goes on to say that “with the slogan “Make the Natural Choice” and repeated claims that its Natural Choice products are “100% Natural” and “All-Natural,” Hormel Foods has run a wide-ranging advertising campaign that takes advantage of consumers’ beliefs that “natural” meat comes from animals raised in a specific, sustainable way. According to a 2015 Consumer Reports survey, half of consumers believe the “natural” designation means animals were raised outdoors. Hormel’s Natural Choice products, in contrast, are not from more humane or more natural farms, but come from the same industrialized factory farms as any of Hormel’s other products.”  

Hormel said in a statement from a Bloomberg report that it stands behind its labeling and advertising. Its Natural Choice products "are produced, labeled, and marketed in conformance with all applicable laws and regulations." 

Read the entire complaint here