ALDF Wins for Hens, Consumers in Settlement with Bay Area Egg Producer
The Animal Legal Defense Fund has resolved an important battle to promote truth-in-advertising and hold egg producers accountable for misleading packaging. As a result of ALDF’s lawsuit, one Bay Area egg producer will have to change its advertising and pay $44,000 to be split equally between the Sonoma Humane Society, Public Justice Foundation, and Consumer Action. The Sonoma Humane Society, a leading animal rescue organization in Sonoma County, California, will devote the funds for its hen rescue activities. Additional details about the settlement can be found in the official press release.
You’ve probably seen “cage-free,” “free-range,” and “pastured,” on egg packages in your local markets. But what exactly do these phrases mean? Free ranging hens frolicking in sunny pastures? Or hens kept together in indoor spaces? Not egg-sactly.
In 2012, ALDF filed a lawsuit against California egg producers Judy’s Family Farm Organic Eggs (“Judy’s Eggs”), owned by Petaluma Farms, under false advertising laws. ALDF alleged that the original packaging implied that hens have access to a natural outdoor environment. Children sit amidst green grass on a sunny day. A butterfly floats above, as a happy little hen roams freely with her chicks.
However, the lawsuit claimed that this imagery didn’t match with the reality of the enclosures where hens are kept indoors and never step foot into the open fields of Sonoma County.
“The confusion regarding ‘cage-free’ and ‘free-range’ eggs is one of the reasons why this lawsuit was so important,” says Chris Berry, ALDF litigation fellow. False advertising violates California consumer protection laws and can unfairly disadvantage other businesses. As a result of the settlement, Judy’s Eggs has removed the illustration of hens in a green field from its egg cartons, as well as the language suggesting that the hens roam about outdoors.
As a result of ALDF’s lawsuit, Petaluma Farms is also now required to comply with Certified Humane production standards that include a minimum space-per-bird requirement and environmental enrichment such as perches and nesting boxes.
ALDF believes consumers have a right to know what they are purchasing. “This victory sends a strong signal to the industry that animal welfare and truth-in-advertising is important to consumers,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Meanwhile, the best way to ensure your choices don’t harm hens is to reduce or eliminate eggs from your diet.