In the days following an 81-page complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission alleging “misleading” descriptions of its animal welfare standards, industrial poultry producer Pilgrim’s Pride changed some of the wording on its website.
As recently as last month, the company pledged that its chickens were “raised with the highest standards” and bred in “the best possible growout conditions.” Then, in a Dec. 12 complaint, the Humane Society of the United States alleged that such assurances were misleading. Citing undercover investigations, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection records and whistleblower accounts, the organization argued that, contrary to company statements about implementing the highest possible standards, the majority of birds raised and slaughtered for it suffer cruel and inhumane treatment.
The group said most Pilgrim’s Pride chickens spend the majority of their lives in filthy, dark barns and are sometimes scalded alive during slaughter.
Pilgrim’s Pride says it was a coincidence that, within 10 days of the FTC filing, it took down its website, Pilgrims.com, and unveiled a lightly redesigned successor, PilgrimsUSA.com. While much of the language used is similar or the same as the earlier iteration, some statements at issue in the Humane Society complaint-including those above-have been dropped or toned down.
On the Frequently Asked Questions page, for example, instead of assuring consumers that birds are raised “with the highest standards,” the company now simply ensures “that birds are treated humanely and raised with care.”
Cameron Bruett, a Pilgrim’s Pride spokesperson, told Bloomberg “the website update has been in the works for several months and has no connection to the complaint.”