I have always been concerned for animal welfare. I was a vegetarian for about 9 years, and though my diet now includes some meat, I attempt to limit consumption to animals that were raised in what most people would assume to be humane conditions -- conditions in which animals did not have to endure undue suffering, as they do on factory farms.
My senior thesis in college dealt with the way in which factory farming commodifies animals and distances consumers from the food production process, allowing us to not think too deeply about how the animals we eat live (and suffer) and die in the process.
As an anthropologist, I am aware of how we create cultural categories of animals (e.g., "pets" vs. "food animals") that do not match scientific biological classification systems and that allow us to be horrified when dogs or parakeets are neglected or treated cruelly but accept horrible living conditions for pigs or chickens.
When I first saw Kroger's Simple Truth line, I was excited to see this new line of "natural" and organic products. I am a frequent shopper at Kroger, which is the closest major supermarket to my house in Clarkston, just outside of Atlanta. I noticed that the claim on the Simple Truth chicken products was that their chickens were raised "cage-free" and in "humane" conditions. The lower price, compared to other humanely-raised chicken products, was particularly appealing. I rarely purchase meat to cook, but my daughter liked a chicken dish at her favorite Indian restaurant, and I thought that I should learn to cook this at home to control what kind of chicken she was consuming.
Then I heard about a lawsuit that was being brought against Kroger, sponsored by Compassion Over Killing and started to do some research. In reading the text of the lawsuit, I was distressed to see that Kroger Simple Truth chickens were from a regular factory farm run by Perdue.
Although they were raised "cage-free," I discovered that all chickens raised for meat in the U.S. are cage-free, but this means nothing in terms of their living conditions. According to a customer service representative I spoke to at Kroger, Simple Truth chickens are raised in a "poultry barn."
Perdue and other standard industry poultry barn have thousands of chickens crowded together under one roof. In addition, chickens raised for Simple Truth chicken products are fast-growing chickens who suffer considerably during their lives from joint and cardiovascular problems. The Compassion Over Killing lawsuit also details horrific practices related to the slaughter of these chickens.
I was distressed that Kroger's Simple Truth labels seem to be deliberately misleading-they are simply slapping a green label on factory-farmed chicken products. I felt betrayed, when I was initially happy to see this line of products.
Though I still patronize our local Kroger, which has been great at providing employment locally and hiring among the large refugee population in our community, I no longer trust any of the claims on Simple Truth organic and natural products, particularly their animal products.
I started a petition on Change.org to raise awareness about the misleading nature of the Simple Truth labels with the aim of getting Kroger to be more transparent about where their products come from, or, ideally, to find a new source for their chicken products so that the claim that their chickens are "humanely raised" is not a lie.
More than 150,000 consumers have signed to support me on Change.org, and I hope you will as well.