Deceptive Labels // Kirti Duddi

While walking along the aisles of a supermarket, it is possible for the average person to be overwhelmed by the various food labels that exist. As people’s awareness and the demand for accountability and healthy options has grown over the years, more and more products can be seen with labels such as  “natural”, “organic” or “USDA verified”. Nevertheless, these food labels can be misleading, especially with meat products. For instance, corporate giant Perdue markets its chickens as “USDA verified”, “cage free”, and “humanely raised”. Yet, these chickens are raised unhealthily overweight and are contained in dark, cramped, and filthy conditions. When big companies put these arbitrary labels on their products, consumers are caught up in a false sense of comfort that prevents them from making informed decisions. It feeds into a cycle where consumers continue to lend their support to an unethical industry without demanding full transparency. In the process of rebranding their image by assuming unregulated and meaningless labels, companies exploit the public and withhold important information regarding their operations.

The chickens are marketed as “cage free” even though the cramped space they are housed in might as well be a cage considering the unsanitary and unjust conditions they are placed in. Usually, these chickens are packed in a room with 30,000 other chickens (Foer). According to the National Chicken Council, the appropriate stocking density for each chicken is eight-tenths of a square foot per bird (Foer). They are overcrowded with other birds in a stuffy, hot room and the ground is filled with their own excrement and filth. They are not able to roam around outside because that would require more manpower and work to round up the chickens. The living conditions are repulsive but because of the deceitful labeling, the average consumer is tricked into thinking that “cage free” means that the chickens have freedom to roam around.

USDA label on Perdue chicken
USDA label on Perdue chicken

The deception lies in the wording of “humanely raised”. The Americans trust the USDA to make sure that the animals are being treated humanely, but in reality, the animals are being treated far from humanely. Humane treatment indicates compassion, and helpfulness for ones that are suffering. This is clearly not the case. Sadly, the chickens struggle to move around because their bones are breaking from their heaviness. One out of four chickens will struggle to be able to walk properly because they are in pain (Foer). They gain weight in such a short amount of time that their bodies cannot handle the burden. They are fed drug-laced feed to gain weight at a faster rate, so they are ready to be sold to consumers in a shorter amount of time. This factory farming system is developed to be as efficient as possible, and make the most profit. It is a harsh, corrupt system, and the worst part is that consumers are hoodwinked into thinking that the chickens come from safe and clean farms. As a result, uninformed people who may not actually support the inhumane and treatment of animals are now contributing to the system.

The corruption within the American factory farming industry draws parallels to the corruption within the movie industry industry. Just like the consumers of factory farmed meat, the movie viewers are tricked into believing that the animals used in the production are treated well. Despite the fact that twenty-seven animals died, the American Humane Association (AHA) awarded the “No animals were harmed” end credit for the movie (Hollywood Reporter). The deceptive statement released by the AHA ultimately caused a lack of awareness of the issue because movie viewers believed that the animals used in the film were not mistreated. Ultimately, individuals become passive consumers of products generated through violence and abuse. By watching and paying for these films, they give their implicit approval. They support corrupt practices by the movie industry that have little to no effective regulation by organizations such as the AHA. The American Humane Association disregarded rules and regulations that society blindly trusts to be enforced.

The hobbit

After learning about the Columbine massacre in CTW 2, I learned that the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News released a fabricated story relating Cassie Bernall’s tragic death to martyrdom. Cassie Bernall was a victim who was reported to being killed for saying yes to her belief in God. However, Valeen Schnurr was actually the girl who professed her faith in the library (Cullen). This drastic misunderstanding from the newspaper media caused more pain for Valeen Schnurr because Cassie was given recognition for the noble action of Valeen. The Cassie story was told by many priests in churches across the United States and spurred the formation of Christian youth groups (Cullen). Cassie Bernall was a source of inspiration to many. Nonetheless, the newspaper media was at fault because it failed to do the necessary research and wanted to offer remarkable news to the public quickly. Despite the media’s intentions, the public was told the wrong heroine of Columbine and a false story cannot be redeemable no matter its consequences. Careless reporting is a violation of the very accountability and verification the public expects the media to deliver. Without reliable news information, the public is increasingly alienated from the true account of an event.

Ultimately, when people do not have the correct information they are entitled to as consumers, they perpetuate and contribute to systems of abuse, violence, and mistreatment. Such disregard can manifest through various ways, whether in the food industry, a film production, or a media story. So, where does that leave the average consumer? Where does the average consumer go to buy humanely raised chicken? Where do they go to watch a movie? Where can they read a true story? This lack of transparency has harmful implications not only for consumers who want safe and healthy products, and correct information, but also for animals who are caught up in these unethical practices, and individuals whose tragic stories are exploited and sensationalized by the media. Furthermore, individuals feel alienated because they cannot trust the products that are given to them. Only by understanding these systematic abuses, society will have the power to demand change.

Works Cited

“Animals Were Harmed: Hollywood’s Nightmare of Death, Injury, and Secrecy Exposed | Hollywood Reporter Exclusive.”Animals Were Harmed Hollywoods Nightmare of Death Injury and Secrecy Exposed Hollywood Reporter Exclusive. Web. 13 Feb. 2015.

Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.

Digital image. Garden Eats. N.p., n.d. Web.

Digital image. The Hobbit: A Unexpected Journey. Wikipedia, n.d. Web.

Hills, Suzannah. “Campaigners Blast Producers of The Hobbit Movies after 27 Animals Die during Filming of the Trilogy.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 19 Nov. 2012. Web. 28 Jan. 2015.

Stoddard, Kelly. Digital image. All You. All You, 07 Mar. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
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