by Marion Nestle
May 12 2014

More on USDA Process-Verified chicken

George Faisan sent me this photo of a package of Perdue’s USDA process-verified chicken.

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I wrote about this chicken in 2011.

At the time, I pointed out that broilers are usually raised on grain, are not usually fed animal by-products, and are never fed hormones or steroids.  And cage-free usually means something like this:

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The USDA does indeed have a process verification program .  As I explained in 2011, it is a marketing program that allows producers to make claims and create certification logos.

My 2011 remarks elicited a response from a Perdue official implying that the only antibiotic used in their chickens is one used to deal with coccidiosis, and it is not used in humans.  He said Perdue is a family-owned company trying hard to do this right.

My remarks also elicited a response from Tyson, a Perdue competitor:

Dr. Nestle is correct that Perdue’s claims are marketing hype. The process verified label is confusing to consumers because it implies that Perdue’s practices are more humane than other producers and that other producers raise broilers in cages. Neither of those claims are true. Tyson filed a petition, supported by consumer survey research, requesting that USDA revoke that label.

The Tyson petition objected to Perdue’s use of Process Verification on the basis that its labels are misleading.

USDA disagreed.  It defended the Process Verified Program as

a voluntary, user-fee program that is open to all companies…to gain a marketing advantage for their products.  Perdue’s competitors are free to participate in the program and obtain the same marketing advantage.

In 2011, Perdue was claiming that its chickens were “humanely raised.”  It’s not doing that anymore.

Backyard chickens, anyone?

  • Fliff

    Are there any certifications for chicken or eggs that are meaningful, and not just marketing hype? I’d like to support more responsible agriculture and animal husbandry, but as a consumer it’s difficult to sort through cosmetic claims for things that are valuable or real. The “certified humane” (a la http://certifiedhumane.org/ ) claims look good but are they what they seem?

    If you have time and don’t mind, I’d appreciate it if you covered this topic sometime. (A site search for certified humane didn’t turn anything up; my apologies if you have already done this and I just didn’t find it.)

  • OliveChirper

    Fliff

    Here is the Humane Society’s summary and evaluation of several labels for meat and eggs:

    http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/confinement_farm/facts/guide_egg_labels.html

  • pawpaw

    Don’t know if it works for you, but several who sell eggs at our farmers market do farm tours, where the public is welcome to see all aspects of their egg production. Same for broiler production. So it’s possible to see your meat animals, as they are growing.

  • TypicalRaleighite