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MN-based Cargill Faces Federal Complaint Over Turkey Labels

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Cargill says it works with 600 "independent family farms" to produce turkeys in the United States, but groups are challenging that claim as potentially misleading. (Adobe Stock)
Cargill says it works with 600 "independent family farms" to produce turkeys in the United States, but groups are challenging that claim as potentially misleading. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
November 24, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- Many Americans are scaling back their Thanksgiving plans because of the pandemic. But turkey is still on the menu, and one Minnesota-based producer is facing complaints over its claims the birds come from "family farms."

Nonprofit groups have filed a petition with the Federal Trade Commission against Cargill, one of the nation's largest turkey producers. The complaint alleges Cargill makes misleading labeling claims by suggesting "independent family farms" play a role in the production process.

Angela Huffman, vice president of programs and development at the Family Farm Action Alliance, said given the company's size and scope, the labels don't match what's happening.

"These are not truly independent family farms," Huffman said. "Cargill is controlling the process the whole way through."

She contends the turkeys are largely produced in a factory-farm setting. The complaint also mentions concerns about worker safety and the company's environmental impact, and asks the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

The company declined a request for comment, but its website says its programs are in compliance with legal requirements.

In Central Minnesota, Tom Barthel operates Snake River Farm, where they raise all their animals in a natural setting. He feels there's too much leeway for larger corporations to make certain claims on their labels.

"You can say animals are raised outside or pasture-raised, just by opening a door," Barthel said.

Barthel said it can be more costly to produce animals like turkeys in a clean and well-ventilated setting, which he feels can prompt larger companies to cut corners. But he isn't convinced regulators will crack down, and feels consumers should be given more opportunity to buy directly from farmers, so they know more about where their meat and poultry come from.

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