September 5th, 2017
Sanderson Farms set out on a mission to educate consumers on “the truth about chicken.” “Chicken myth” No. 1, according to Sanderson Farms: Only chickens raised without antibiotics are safe to eat. Then the company took it a step further, saying that any chicken producer that slaps “raised without antibiotics” on their label is essentially a liar.
“[Chicken producers] that say ‘raised without antibiotics’ — that’s just a trick to get you to pay more money,” Sanderson Farms, the third largest poultry processor in the U.S., says in the commercial above. “It’s a marketing gimmick. Fact is, by federal law all chickens must be clear of antibiotics before they leave the farm.”
It’s true: Federal law requires that all chicken sold to consumers be free of antibiotics before the chicken is processed and packaged for sale. That’s not what NAD took issue with following a recent review of Sanderson Farms’ marketing. What didn’t sit well with NAD was the company’s snake-oil-salesman-like characterization of competitors that advertise that their birds have always been antibiotic-free, given “the lack of any consensus in the scientific community over the safety of consuming meat from animals raised using antibiotics.”
Sanderson Farms, as you might have guessed, does inject its chickens with antibiotics — “to treat disease in chickens and keep them healthy,” the company says.
Following its inquiry, NAD recommended that Sanderson Farms discontinue from its advertising language that characterizes “raised without antibiotics” labels on competing chicken producers’ products as:
- A “marketing gimmick”
- “Just a trick to get you to pay more money”
- A claim that it “full of hot air and doesn’t say much”
- “A phrase [that marketers] invented to make chicken sound safer … and it doesn’t mean much”
- And similar language
Sanderson Farms said it would comply with NAD’s recommendation in future advertising. (For more on the debate about antibiotics in chickens click here.)
There are, however, some food labeling terms that genuinely don’t mean much. Read about those here.
The National Advertising Division, or NAD, is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. NAD asks advertisers to substantiate or change their claims in advertisements. As part of a voluntary system of self-regulation, however, its recommendations can be ignored by the offending advertisers. In those instances, NAD refers the offender to federal consumer protection agencies.