Federal Complaint Filed Over Safeway “Certified Humane” Chicken Meat

VANCOUVER — National animal law organization Animal Justice has filed a false advertising complaint with the Competition Bureau and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency over Safeway’s “certified humane” chicken meat advertising.

The complaint asserts that Safeway is illegally misleading consumers about how chickens are treated through false representations and imagery, contrary to the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, and the Food and Drugs Act.

Safeway’s marketing materials claim the certified humane meat comes from chickens who enjoyed “ample” space. However, Safeway’s humane standards allow approximately 15 birds to be crowded into each square metre, compared with the regular industry standard of approximately 15.5 birds.

The materials also claim chickens were handled gently in low-stress environments and were able to engage in natural behaviours. In reality, the standards allow vast numbers of chickens genetically selected for rapid growth to be crowded into windowless warehouses, where they will never enjoy virtually anything that makes life worth living. Workers are permitted to carry up to six birds at a time, dangling them by their feet—a practice that is known to cause stress and injury. At the slaughterhouse, fully conscious and terrified chickens will be rapidly shackled upside down before they’re killed by automated machinery.

Safeway’s marketing materials depict rolling pasture, despite that the chickens will never see the light of day, breathe fresh air, or scratch in the grass and dirt, as chickens love to do. A Harris poll reveals that 65 percent of consumers believe that if chicken meat is certified as humane, the chickens should have had access to vegetation in the outdoors.

“Canadians are increasingly troubled by how commercial farming reduces animals to commodities with next to no regard for their physical and psychological needs,” said Anna Pippus, director of farmed animal advocacy with Animal Justice. “Advertisers are capitalizing on consumers’ desires to make more ethical food purchases by selling them false assurances about how animals are treated. The truth is ‘humane’ meat is barely an improvement over industry norms and is still the product of appalling animal suffering.”

In 2013, Safeway was acquired by Sobeys, which certifies “humane” meat using the same standards. Jamie Oliver is a spokesperson for both Safeway’s and Sobeys’ “certified humane” advertising.

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View Animal Justice’s legal complaint to federal regulators here.

View Safeway’s “certified humane” meat brochure here.

View the “certified humane” standards here.