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