washingtonpost.com
Egg Label Changed After Md. Group Complains
Federal Inquiry Into Advocates' Charge of False Advertising Is Dropped

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 4, 2005

The egg industry is changing the text of its "Animal Care Certified" logo on store cartons in response to complaints from a Takoma Park-based animal rights group that argued that the seal misled customers, egg producers announced yesterday.

The new logo will say "United Egg Producers Certified" and, in smaller type, "Produced in Compliance with United Egg Producers' Animal Husbandry Guidelines." A spokesman for United Egg Producers, the industry trade association that administers the logo, said that the new seal will appear on egg cartons manufactured after Nov. 30 and that all egg cartons bearing the old logo will be removed by April 1, 2006.

The animals rights group, Compassion Over Killing, had argued that the old logo implied a standard of animal care that they said did not exist.

As a result of the action, the Federal Trade Commission dropped its consideration of a false advertising complaint filed in 2003 by Compassion Over Killing. The National Advertising Review Board had recommended that the seal be dropped or changed.

"We believe that these changes directly address the deception identified in the NARB decision," Mary K. Engle, the Federal Trade Commission's associate director of the division of advertising practices, wrote in a letter Friday to the director of Compassion Over Killing.

The animal care conditions under which an egg farm's produce can receive the seal -- which United Egg Producers says is humane, and animal rights advocates consider cruel -- will not change. At conventional egg farms, hens are kept in crowded wire "battery cages," and the tips of their beaks are often removed.

The egg industry said the conditions were designed by animal welfare experts to keep the animals from attacking one another. Compassion Over Killing advocates said they would prefer a ban on battery cages, allowing chickens to roam cage-free or free-range.

In interviews yesterday, both sides claimed success.

"The program is intact, which for us is a great victory," said Mitch Head, spokesman for United Egg Producers. "The only thing that was in question was the words on the logo itself. That's why we decided, 'Let's change the words, because we don't want a cloud hanging over this.' "

Erica Meier, director of Compassion Over Killing, said the decision was a win for animals and consumers.

"Consumers will be able to make more informed buying choices and won't be duped or deceived into buying eggs that were produced by animal cruelty," she said. "They will more than likely opt for eggs labeled as cage-free or free-range."

Head responded: "We support cage-free eggs as a choice for consumers. We say, let consumers make their own choice. They are making their choice right now, and 98 percent of them are choosing conventional eggs," which are significantly cheaper than free-range eggs.

Meier said Compassion Over Killing is reviewing its lawsuit, filed in February in D.C. Superior Court, against retailers Giant Food, Brookville Supermarket and Lehman's Egg Service and United Egg Producers over their use of the logo. Giant Food agreed to drop the logo from eggs produced under its brand name last month, pending a review of the program.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company