Green Animal Welfare Spokesperson Sue Kedgley has lodged a formal complaint with the Advertising Standards Complaints Board and the Commerce Commission under the Fair Trading Act over Tegel's 'pure, natural healthy chicken' advertising campaign, claiming the ads are misleading (see letters).
Ms Kedgley's complaint alleges that the 'No added growth hormone' television ads and a newly released Tegel brochure promoting Tegel chickens as being 'barn raised' and 'pure, natural healthy chicken' is deceptive and misleads the public about the nature, health and environment of Tegel chickens.
"While it is true that New Zealand chickens are not fed growth hormones, the statement 'no added hormones' is deceptive and misleading because it leads the consumer to infer that no artificial growth promotant is administered to their chickens to make them grow faster," said Ms Kedgley.
"This is not correct, as Tegel routinely feed antibiotics to their chickens, and one of the effects of these antibiotics is to make the chickens grow faster. The antibiotics act as a synthetic growth promotant, or feed enhancer, as the industry calls them.
"I submit that in promoting their products as free of growth hormones without admitting the routine use of antibiotics which have growth promoting effects, Tegel are misleading their consumers," she said.
"Similary, most consumers would infer from Tegel's claim that their chickens are 'pure, natural and healthy' that they are fed a natural diet, containing no chemicals, drugs or antibiotics. This is not the case."
Ms Kedgley said that in 'exploding' one myth, Tegel were helping to further another.
"Describing its chickens as 'barn-raised,' which implies a relatively open indoor environment where animals are free to move around, is also deceptive and misleading given that their chickens are housed at stocking ratios of around 19 chickens per square metre - in the week prior to slaughter each bird has the area of an A4 piece of paper," she said.
Ms Kedgley said there is growing concern at the over-use of antibiotics in modern farming, particularly as antibiotic resistance in humans is growing exponentially, and consumers wanted to know if animals were fed antibiotics on a routine basis.
"Tegel's campaign, while misleading, is an acknowledgement that consumers want to know that their food is safe and that animals have been treated properly. Tegel should respond to this consumer concern by giving consumers the full facts about how their chickens are raised," she said.
Letters of complaint available at http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/pr5033.html