It seems like I keep writing about chicken. This time, I’m hot and bothered about Tyson’s antibiotic debacle. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about: Tyson Foods, Inc., the company that manufactures all those chicken fingers and sells raw poultry in 2008 was sued for what some called questionable business practices. The gist: The company wanted to be able to say that it didn’t “raise” its chickens with antibiotics. In order to do that it injected all its eggs with antibiotics before they hatched so the chickens growing inside would get the antibiotics, but, at least according to semantics, they were “raised” without antibiotics. The worst part: The antibiotics it was allegedly using were the same ones that are used for human consumption, according to reports. Gentamicin, to be exact, according to a statement released on June 3, 2008 by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond.
Around the same time Tyson was sued by its competitors, bringing the issue into the public eye. When consumers heard about it, (and I have to admit, I didn’t hear about it at the time) they flipped. There are plenty of stories that will give you more background, but when it happened, a federal judge told Tyson it had 14 days to remove all “raised without antibiotics” claims from its packaging. The USDA disagreed with the label, it seemed. Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest issued a joint letter decrying the injecting eggs practice, and supporting the USDA. Class action lawsuits followed. Eight suits were filed in five states by 22 plaintiffs. The cases were eventually combined into a single class action lawsuit. Which brings us to today.
This week a federal judge in Baltimore is reviewing the fairness of that lawsuit that will award up to $5 million in coupons to consumers — Tyson’s way of saying it’s sorry for the mislabeling snafu, according to the Baltimore Sun. From the story:
Under the proposal, U.S. consumers who bought Tyson chicken with the antibiotic-free labeling between June 19, 2007, when it began, and April 2009, when it was withdrawn, are considered members of the “settlement class,” eligible to apply for cash or coupon refunds. That means anyone who bought fresh, frozen or deli chicken during that time, Cornish hens or tenders.
You’ll get $5, $10, or $50 in coupons depending on if you have cash register receipts or not or if you’re willing to “declare under penalty of perjury” that you spent that kind of cash on Tyson products.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking that $5 million isn’t even a drop in the bucket compared to the harm the company probably did to our environment and cumulative health. I’m so disgusted I can’t stand it. I’m actually at a loss. Seems like every time I think it can’t get any worse, someone in mainstream food production does something like this and astounds me with their lack of care for humankind. I was already buying only Bell & Evans air-chilled chickens. What more can I do? Oh, wait. I’m doing it: Don’t buy Tyson chicken anymore. Why would you patronize a company that seemingly cares so little about you and your family?
Did you know about Tyson’s actions? Will you continue buying its products? Was the settlement large enough? Let’s hear it.