WASHINGTON – A complaint lodged with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accuses Cargill of making false and misleading claims about its Shady Brook Farms and Honeysuckle White brands of turkey products. Family Farm Action Alliance, Venceremos, Mighty Earth, Animal Equality, Organic Consumers Association, and Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, in partnership with Richman Law Group, urged the FTC to investigate.

“Cargill uses its ‘independent family farmers’ narrative to imply that the Products have far-reaching benefits for workers, animals, and the environment,” the groups said. “As set forth in the complaint, Cargill is egregiously misleading consumers with these representations, because the products are in fact produced on large, corporate-controlled factory farms. Far from the bucolic family farms portrayed by Cargill’s marketing, Cargill’s actual production methods exploit contract farmers and slaughterhouse workers, systematically abuse animals, and cause grave harms to the environment.”

In response to the allegations, Cargill said the company “conducts business in a legal, ethical and responsible manner. We believe the claims lack merit and are proud to offer our customers and consumers safe, wholesome and great tasting turkey products they have come to know and trust. Cargill has worked with US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop an audited process verified program for turkey production that exceeds all current governmental and industry standards and allows certain claims to be used on product packaging that utilizes Cargill turkeys including:

  • Turkeys are raised with no antibiotics used for growth promotion – antibiotics only used for treatment and prevention of illness
  • By Independent farmers
  • By producers trained on animal handling practices

“This includes our Honeysuckle White and Shady Brook Farms brand turkeys which have been USDA Process Verified since May 2015,” Cargill said.

The complaint cites as examples of Cargill’s alleged deceptive messaging verbiage on the company’s website, social media accounts and Sustainability Reports where Cargill “...consistently advertises its ‘independent family farmer’ narrative.”

But the groups allege that Cargill’s growers have little to no freedom to make decisions about how to raise their birds. The complaint states that growers “...are routinely subject to exploitative demands to incur more and more debt to pay for costly equipment and barn upgrades.”

The complaint also accuses Cargill of unsafe work conditions at its facilities and selectively breeding turkeys to have health problems, among other problems.

This complaint details these and other false and deceptive statements made by Cargill and contrasts them with the industrialized practices that Cargill actually employs,” the document said. “Petitioners have included descriptions that demonstrate the grievousness of Cargill’s conduct and the need for FTC action. In light of the foregoing, Petitioners request that the FTC investigate Cargill’s claims...and take appropriate action to enjoin the company from continuing to make misleading claims about its production methods.”