Consumers have a right to know how their food is produced, and trends show that consumers want to purchase food that’s produced in ways that are ethical, ecologically sound, and good for them. The food industry – and meat corporations in particular – exploit these desires by portraying their products as having been raised humanely and processed by workers treated with dignity. Such false claims deceive consumers and prevent the public from demanding better.
Hormel Foods takes advantage of consumer demand for premium products through its “Natural Choice®” line of products that it has advertised as “100% natural,” “all-natural,” and “better-for-you.” These claims were at least in part based on research suggesting that shoppers assume “natural” foods have certain qualities, like being raised humanely, or not having antibiotics or other additives. “Natural Choice®” products did not bear such qualities, though – the meat destined for Hormel’s natural line is the same exact stuff in its conventional products like SPAM.
With the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we sued Hormel for repeating these claims in its advertising campaigns for “Natural Choice” products. Through our lawsuit, we uncovered documents showing that Hormel’s “natural” products come from animals raised in factory farms and raised with additives, hormones, and antibiotics. Those documents are available for use by the press, attorneys, advocates, and the public in our deep dive.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, pork giant Smithfield Foods lied to the public about how it was treating meatpacking workers, so we sued them. As workers were forced to perform their duties shoulder to shoulder on crowded processing lines and unable to access appropriate sick leave and adequate personal protective equipment, Smithfield claimed it was aggressively protecting them in the press and online. Across the industry, nearly 60,000 workers contracted the deadly virus – a total much higher than originally estimated – and thousands died.
Our lawsuit with Food & Water Watch alleges that Smithfield repeatedly lied to consumers throughout the pandemic so that it could continue exploiting and endangering workers and protect its bottom line. In addition to lying about working conditions, Smithfield stoked fears of a meat shortage, while increasing meat exports and maintaining record-level storage freezers full of meat.