Hormel Foods Advertises Conventional Meat as “Natural,” Newly Released Documents Show

For Immediate Release: November 15th, 2022

Media Contacts:
Masha Vernik,
Lucy Sears,

Hormel Foods Advertises Conventional Meat as “Natural,” Newly Released Documents Show

Food Advocacy Group Unveils Discovery Documents from False Advertising Lawsuit Against Hormel Foods

Today, the Public Justice Food Project published documents uncovered in the discovery of a false advertising lawsuit against Hormel Foods. The newly published documents and accompanying analysis reveal that the corporation exploited consumers’ desires for “green” meat by falsely promoting its “Natural Choice” product line as a healthier option, even though the animals for “Natural Choice” products were raised in the same way as for the company’s standard, factory farm-produced meats.

The documents and analysis reveal the large extent to which Hormel researched, analyzed, and exploited consumer perceptions, intentionally branding the products as “natural” when they were far from the humanely raised, free range, and antibiotic-free meat that consumers typically associate with the term. In fact, the meat raised for Hormel’s “Natural Choice” product line was no different from its factory farm-raised products, and unsealed documents reveal the use of potentially harmful chemicals and antibiotics in producing “Natural Choice” meat. The materials expose a host of food safety violations, including fecal contamination, which posed threats to consumer health and workers handling the products. The documents further uncover a wide gap between what consumers expect from “natural” products and what they receive when they purchase Hormel’s “Natural Choice” products.

The dozens of previously inaccessible documents include depositions of Hormel executives, marketing planning materials and research studies, employee manuals, Food Safety Inspection Service testing results, a presentation from an industry trade show, and more.

The lawsuit, brought by Public Justice on behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund against Hormel Foods in the District of Columbia Superior Court, alleged that the company misled consumers through the advertising of its “Natural Choice” brand of lunch meats and bacon. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Richman Law Group, and Tracy Rezvani also acted as co-counsel on the case. The case went to the D.C. Court of Appeals, the highest court in the district, and established for the first time that consumer-oriented non-profits have standing to protect consumers under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Following remand, the parties reached a settlement.

“Transparency is central to a just food system. The publication of these unsealed documents holds Hormel Foods accountable for using ‘natural’ branding to promote a product that the company knew does not align with what consumers associate with the word ‘natural,’” said Public Justice Food Project Litigation Director David Muraskin. “The discovery documents tell a true story that is intentionally hidden from the public eye. We hope that the materials offer important data for further efforts to increase transparency and hold industrial agriculture accountable.”


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