WASHINGTON ? Perdue Farms, Salisbury, Md., is being sued in New Jersey by The Humane Society of the United States over claims its chickens are humanely raised. HSUS filed the class-action lawsuit on Nov. 29 on behalf of a consumer, claiming Perdue is violating the state's Consumer Fraud Act.

HSUS charges Perdue is asking premium prices for chickens labeled as humanely raised, but its standards fall below what any reasonable consumer would consider humane. HSUS further charges that industry guidelines allow for painful handling and inhumane slaughter, among other things.

According to a statement provided to MEATPOULTRY.com by Perdue, “The Humane Society of the United States is trying to define humane treatment of poultry by its own narrow, arbitrary standards. Our chickens are raised cage-free on family farms in temperature-controlled housing with a continuous flow of fresh air, and they remain free to move about with constant access to food and water. These daily monitored chicken houses also shelter our chickens from the elements, predators and disease.

“The USDA Process Verified Program, which is audited by the USDA, verifies that we are exceeding the industry standards,” the statement added. “For example, we are the first and only poultry company whose hatcheries and family farm partners are inspected by the USDA, and we use video monitoring at the processing plants to ensure compliance with our humane standards.”