Represented by animal rights organization Compassion over Killing, a California resident has filed a putative statewide class action against the Kroger Co., alleging that it misleads consumers by labeling its store-brand chicken products as “sourced from chickens raised ‘cage free in a humane environment,’” when the company’s “Simple Truth” chickens “are treated no differently than other mass-produced chickens on the market.” Ortega v. The Kroger Co., No. BC536034 (Cal. Super. Ct., Los Angeles Cnty., filed February 11, 2014).

Plaintiff Anna Ortega claims that she purchased the company’s chicken products, sourced from Perdue, relying on the package representations and paid a premium for them, averaging 41 percent more than comparable prod- ucts. The complaint outlines the industry standards that Perdue and other chicken processors follow, detailing how they fail to prevent pain, disease and injury from birth to slaughter for a significant number of birds. According to the complaint, Kroger and Perdue are the only companies using “humane” handling labeling on their chicken products, while Perdue’s processing stan- dards are based on the National Chicken Council’s Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist for Broilers, which not only are minimal standards but allow for a measure of non-compliance.

Alleging violation of the fraudulent and unlawful prongs of California’s Unfair Competition Law, fraud in the inducement, negligent misrepresentation, breach of express warranty, and violations of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, the plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, restitution, disgorgement, interest, attorney’s fees, and costs.