Organic Consumers Association

Sanderson Farms: Stop Advertising Your Contaminated Chicken as '100% Natural'!

Sanderson Farms “By federal law, all chickens have to be cleared of antibiotics before they leave the farm,” says the folksy, flannel-wearing actor in a Sanderson Farms “Truth about Chicken—Supermarket” video

So imagine our surprise when we learned that government testing of Sanderson chicken products uncovered 11 instances of antibiotics for human use in Sanderson chicken—after it had left the farm.

One of those antibiotics, chloramphenical, is not only prohibited in food-producing animals, but according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program report (2016), is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

Antibiotics aren’t the only “unnatural” substances in Sanderson chicken. Tests revealed growth hormones prohibited in poultry production, pesticides and prescription drugs—including one with hallucinogenic effects!

Tell Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson: Stop advertising your drug-contaminated chicken as ‘100% Natural!’

After you send your message, please also fill out Sanderson’s customer service form. Then call the company at 1-800-844-4030, and/or write a letter to: Sanderson Farms, Attn: Lampkin Butts, President, PO Box 988, Laurel, MS 39441.

Don’t forget to post a comment on Facebook.  And Tweet: @SandersonFarms Stop lying about your contaminated chicken!

Have you ever purchased Sanderson Farms “100% Natural” chicken? Email us at fraud@organicconsumers.org.

In its video and website advertising, Sanderson uses phrases like “There’s only chicken in our chicken,” and “We raise good, honest chicken.” The company even mocks consumers who pay higher prices for chicken advertised as “raised without antibiotics,” claiming that message is just a “gimmick.”

But the real “gimmick” is Sanderson’s “100% Natural” claim about chicken that tested positive for drugs like ketamine (better known on the street as “Special K”  and “Cat Tranquilizer,”) Xylazine, (nicknamed the “Zombie” drug), and prednisone.

In fact, tests conducted by the National Residue Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) found 49 instances in which samples of Sanderson products tested positive for synthetic drug residues that are not “100% Natural.”

Here’s the short list of what FSIS found in Sanderson chicken:

• 11 instances of antibiotics for human use, including chloramphenical, which is prohibited for use in food animals.
• Positive results for ketamine, a drug with hallucinogenic effects, using testing methods normally applied to beef and pork. Valid testing methods have not been developed for poultry, as USDA scientists would not expect to find ketamine in poultry.
• Ketoprofren, an anti-inflammatory drug; and prednisone, a steroid.
• Reports of growth hormones, melengesterol acetate, and a beta agonist ractopamine—both chemicals are banned in chicken production.
• Six instances of residues of amoxicillin, a medically important antibiotic for human use. Deserves further investigation because, similar to ketamine, valid testing methods have been developed only for beef.
• Three instances of penicillin residue at up to 0.285 ppb, for which the residue regulatory limit is zero.
• Positive test results for the insecticides abamectin and emamectin using testing methods that apply to pork.

For a complete list of unnatural substances in Sanderson chicken, read the lawsuit we filed, along with Friends of the Earth and Center for Food Safety, against Sanderson.

Words matter

Everybody knows the $600-billion global advertising industry is fueled by hype. But in the world of false and misleading food advertising, you’d be hard put to find a bigger offender than Sanderson Farms.

Sanderson’s “Marketing Guru” ad ridicules consumers who fall for fancy “Madison Avenue” ad guys. But Sanderson’s own ads were produced by a professional ad agency, the Cirlot Agency, whose “creative credo” is “make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em think, make ’em buy.”

And buy they do. According to a June 2016 presentation prepared for Jefferies Group, an investment banking firm, publicly-held Sanderson claims to be the third-largest poultry producer in the U.S. with FY 2016 sales of $2.816 billion.

There’s no doubt that the words “100% Natural” fuel Sanderson’s sales, and enrich shareholders. They also flat-out deceive consumers, who think they’re buying a product that’s free of chemicals and pesticides.

Sanderson marketing executives know full well that consumers—73 percent of them according to a Consumer Reports survey—look for the word “natural” when they shop for food, believing those products are pesticide-free.

Past surveys have even suggested that some consumers think “100% Natural” means better than organic—a fact that hasn’t escaped the “marketing gurus” at Sanderson.

I don’t buy Sanderson brand, so why should I care?

Three reasons you should care about what’s in Sanderson chicken, even if you never pick up Sanderson-branded chicken in your grocery store: 1) You could be eating it anyway, and not know it; 2) misuse of antibiotics in animal production threatens everyone’s health; 3) unfair competition results in fewer choices and higher prices for authentic free-range and certified organic chicken.

1. According to the company website, Sanderson processes about 3.6 billion pounds of chicken annually, at 11 processing plants in Mississippi, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana, and sells its chicken in almost every state. Retail grocery chains that carry the brand include Shaw’s, Albertsons, Food 4 Less, Foods Co, WinCo Foods and others.

But Sanderson also supplies chicken to stores that market it under their own label, and also to restaurants like Arby’s, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Yardhouse, Capitol Grill, Dairy Queen, Chili’s and others. Worse yet, 57% of Sanderson sales are to food service/ institutions—including schools, hospitals, nursing homes, who never tell you whose chicken they’re feeding you or your kids (unless you’re lucky enough to eat at an institution that serves only certified organic chicken).

2. Just about everyone, including the Sanderson’s top competitors (Tyson and Perdue) agree that the misuse of antibiotics in factory farms is a public health threat. According to a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the U.S. alone, every year at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.

And a 2015 report commissioned by the UK government estimated that by 2050, the annual global death toll from antibiotic resistant disease will reach 10 million, and the global cost for treatment will be around $100 trillion. That makes antibiotics in Sanderson chicken everybody’s problem—whether you eat it or not.

3.  Given the ongoing confusion about any marketing claim involving the word “natural,” and the fact that a majority of consumers wrongly trust the word so much they look for it, the farmers and producers who play by the rules—including producers of free-range and certified organic chicken—are operating at a competitive disadvantage. Especially when Sanderson makes it look as if the brand is giving you more, for less.

For you, the consumer, that means the honest producers, who have to charge a fair price just to survive, can’t compete. And when they go out of business, you have fewer choices.

It’s time to call out Sanderson Farms for what it is—a deceitful factory farm operation that lies to consumers, threatens public health and produces a horrible, terrible, no-good product.

Tell Sanderson Farms CEO Joe Sanderson: Stop Advertising your contaminated chicken as ‘100% Natural!’


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