A Fowl Tale of Marketing (WARNING: Some pictures below may be disturbing)

“All chickens are humanely raised…”

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Humanely treated, no antibiotics, 100% vegetable diet.

Humanely treated, no antibiotics, 100% vegetable diet. Sounds good!

 

What happens when the perception of how animals are treated appears to be different than reality? Do we shrug and simply accept the reality, or do we step up to the plate and seek answer in hopes of improving their conditions? At Greenomics, we argue that one of the benefits of pursuing sustainable business practices such as being able to demonstrate efforts to improve the environment, improve the treatment of animals, or improve social conditions leads to increased profitability. Those who do not pursue such practices lose market share and acceptance by consumers and will progressively become less profitable. So, here is a test of that argument and a test in the power of blogs and social media. In this case, it is a fowl tale of perception versus reality and how a company does not seriously address the concerns by going silent.

Skin bruised on thigh not noticed when purchased.

Skin bruised on thigh not noticed when purchased.

 

JUST THE FACTS PLEASE

We have been sitting on this story since May, of 2015 to enable the company in question plenty of time to properly respond to our concerns related to the treatment of their product, which is poultry. The story begins simply enough with the purchase of a whole specialty chicken that was touted as being fed with good quality grains, no hormones, no antibiotics and are processed carefully., We purchased this chicken purposefully because we like to support companies that offer alternatives to the mainstream factory food products with their use of growth hormones, antibiotics, forced feeding and general mistreatment of the animals. However, once we started to prepare the chicken for the BBQ, we discovered evidence of mistreatment prior to death.

Thigh bruised throughout tissue.

Thigh bruised throughout tissue.

 

Once we removed the plastic wrapper, we immediately noticed what appeared to be a bruise on the skin of one of the bird’s thighs about the size of a dime. We peeled back the skin and found that the flesh underneath was also bruised and covered an area about the size of a loony. Although concerned, we continue the process of preparing the bird by bucking it up into pieces such as legs, breasts, and wings.

As we cut the bruised thigh away from the body, we were quite disturbed from discovering coagulated blood around the joint and the primary vein that leads from the body into the leg.

Clearly, this animal had received a blow from a blunt device though we can only speculate what that device might have been.

While having a negative impact on our appetites, we decided to continue the process out of a concern for waste and respect for the life given for our meal. We tried cooking it, however having sampled a small portion of the bruise it was stringy, bad tasting and when combined with the daunting appearance of the cooked coagulated blood we decided to feed it to the crabs. (We were anchored in a remote cove.)

OUR RESPONSE

We took our pictures through the process which we include in this post, and sent an email to the Customer Service representative at Heritage Farm. We specifically stated:

Coagulated blood in veins and throughout soft tissue.

Coagulated blood in veins and throughout soft tissue.

 

  1. We are concerned about the processing methods currently used in terms of the animal’s experience.
  2. We assume you are concerned about the impact on the quality of the product and how it impacts people’s dinner quality.
  3. We assume your company is interested in hearing of these issues so that improvements can continue to be made to ensure the humane treatment of your animals and the quality of the product.

We were pleased to get an almost immediate response, although the language seemed a little practiced and the offer suggested the point may have been missed:

I would like to thank you for bringing your concerns to my attention. At Heritage Farms we take animal welfare very seriously, and I will be looking into this. Quality is important to us, as is customer feedback. Would you like us to send another whole Chicken to Clayton’s for you?

The result we wanted was an explanation of how this could have happened and what is being done to prevent it from happening again, not simply get a replacement bird (a mindset that is oddly discomforting). Similar to “Sorry I killed your Labrador retriever, here’s another one just like it.

Pointing out that we were more concerned about improved conditions and offering help was not replied to for three months. We followed up by asking if any progress had been made, and got a similar response about how Heritage Farms takes the treatment of its animals seriously and that they continue to take the matter seriously. Adding “I believe the issue has been addressed, as I have not had a complaint about any similar instances of this occurring, however it is an issue that I will continue to monitor closely.”

We proposed an inexpensive third party certification program, offered by the SPCA, as being a cost effective and credible approach to ensure the birds are treated well. Having a third party certification would reduce any misperception of messaging versus reality. That suggestion was offered in the first week of September, 2015, and there has been no reply since. We sent a follow up email asking for an update in early February 2016, 5 months later, and again there was no response. So, this series of events has been unfolding for 9 months without any signs of progress.

We have been concerned about posting this experience as we do not want to do harm, but if we are to see improvements then we cannot simply remain silent and let this pass into the forgotten.

We have our perspective, but would love to hear yours. Please take this 4 question multiple choice survey and help us get a pulse on what is and is not acceptable. It will take about 30 seconds.

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