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Viewpoint: Improving the marketplace for consumers

This page highlights efforts by Consumers Union and others to improve the marketplace

Published: January 2015

Heroes & Watchdogs: A farmer’s video challenges Perdue’s 'humanely raised' chicken claim

Many consumers want their chicken to have been raised humanely. But Perdue’s claims of humane treatment didn’t ring true to Craig Watts, a chicken farmer in Fairmont, N.C., who first heard them in a promotional video. “It’s deceptive marketing,” he says. “If I didn’t say anything, I’d be enabling it.”
 

Watts is familiar with the standards of the country’s fourth-largest chicken producer; he raises about 720,000 birds for it each year in facilities approved both by Perdue and the USDA Process-Verified program for this humane claim. But he objected to the company’s use of the claim and the Department of Agriculture seal in its marketing. (Consumer Reports has rated the USDA Verified humane claim as “not meaningful.”) So he invited the animal-welfare group Compassion in World Farming to film his own facilities.
 

The result is a video that shows what appear to be thousands of birds crammed in the dark, gasping for air and weighed down by unnaturally large breasts. It went live on Dec. 3 and by press time had reached more than 1.4 million viewers.
 

Two days after it aired, Perdue issued a statement accusing Watts of failing to provide appropriate animal care. He says the company picked up the chickens shown in the video as well as three additional flocks.
 

A Perdue spokeswoman told Consumer Reports that Watts is now being retrained in poultry-welfare practices. She also said that his chickens aren’t sold with the humane claim, which applies only to a small percentage of Perdue’s products.
 

Watts plans to continue to work with Perdue and to speak out. “I can do more to change this conversation from the inside,” he says, “than I could if I walked away.”
 

Learn more about how Consumer Reports rated Perdue’s “humane” claim at GreenerChoices.org/perdue. To view the Watts video or to sign a petition urging your supermarket to stock chicken that has received third-party animal-welfare certification, go to better-chicken.org. And find out about the high cost of cheap chicken.

Know a consumer hero? Fill us in on the advocacy champions you admire most. Write to us at heroeswatchdogs@cr.consumer.org.

Actions you can take in February

Photo: Paul Sahre

Keep your car lender in check

Auto loans often come from finance companies that aren’t regulated the same way as banks. To make sure that consumers are getting a fair deal, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is now considering new regulations for those “nonbank” lenders. If you’ve had a bad experience with a car loan you got through a dealer, tell the CFPB at consumerfinance.gov.

Help guide our work

There are many problems in today’s marketplace—from the skyrocketing cost of broadband to abysmal airline service to those we might not yet be aware of! Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, focuses its campaigns on your needs. Tell us your concerns by going to ConsumersUnion.org/share-your-story.

A win for consumers: Feds crack down on cell-phone "cramming"

Last year, the Federal Trade Commission sued T-Mobile for “cramming”—sneaking third-party fees onto bills for unwanted services like horoscope texts and flirting tips. In December, the company agreed to pay at least $90 million in refunds and penalties for the bogus charges. It’s not the only cell-phone company under such scrutiny: AT&T agreed to a $105 million cramming settlement with the FTC last October. The CFPB has also sued Sprint for similar violations.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the March 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



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