SAN FRANCISCO – Complaints filed in California and New Mexico federal courts accuse Diestel Turkey Ranch, Sonora, Calif., of misleading consumers about the origins and growing conditions of its turkeys.
The company's website states the turkeys it sells come in organic, all-natural, heirloom, and pasture-raised varieties.
“Each breed has its own unique qualities, but they’re all raised according to our strict standards,” the website states. “They’re raised in a wholesome, nourishing environment with access to fresh water and clean air rolling off the Sierra Nevada Foothills. They’re fed an all-vegetarian feed blend without fillers, growth stimulants, or antibiotics, ever. And they’re raised damn tasty.”
But the lawsuit, for which the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status, allege that the main source of Diestel’s turkey is from off-site facilities with poultry barns housing as many as 17,000 birds each.
“In addition, other turkey parts are purchased from commercial suppliers and then repackaged as Diestel products,” the complaint states. “The company’s turkeys are shipped to the Sonora location only for slaughtering and processing, while some products are not even sent there.”
The complaint goes on to say that Diestel Turkey Ranch charged premium prices for their birds — as much as $9.99 per lb at retailers such as Whole Foods and Amazon. The lawsuit contends that other commercially raised birds can sell for as little as $0.59 per lb.
Because of Diestel’s misrepresentations, “consumers paid more for Diestel Turkey products and suffer harm in the form of paying a higher price” than they would have paid had they known that Diestel turkeys were raised at agro-industrial facilities.
The lawsuit also alleges that Diestel uses antibiotics and other chemicals, purchases the most common commercial turkey breed, slaughters the birds at approximately the same time as the rest of the industry, and employs as many as 300 workers, only six of which are Diestel family members.
“For more than 70 years, this company has fostered an image of humane treatment and sustainability, while in fact it follows the same practices as any other large-scale commercial supplier,” said Timothy L. Sifers of the Potts Law Firm Kansas City office and attorney for the plaintiffs in each case. “While our claims only seek damages for purchases since the fall of 2016, we’re still talking about hundreds of thousands of affected consumers plus millions of dollars in profits that are built on a lie.”
The cases are Wetzel et al v. Diestel Turkey Ranch, No. 20-cv-1213, filed in US District Court for New Mexico in Albuquerque and Donovan et al v. Diestel Turkey Ranch, No. 4:20-cv-07125, filed in US District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.