Suit Over ‘Natural’ Meat Dismissed

By Pan Demetrakakes, Senior Editor

Apr 11, 2019

A lawsuit alleging that Hormel is misleading consumers by calling its ham and other processed meats “natural” has been dismissed by a trial judge on the grounds that, whatever assumptions consumers may make about that term, the company followed existing regulations.

The processed-meat giant had been sued by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), alleging that its use of the word “natural” on labels for products like “Natural Choice” processed meats was misleading. The products in question are made from animals that are administered antibiotics and often are not allowed outside. In addition, some products advertised as having “no artificial preservatives” in fact had additives like celery powder, which, while naturally derived, preserves meat by raising its nitrate level.

The Superior Court of the District of Columbia, however, ruled April 8 that USDA regulations require only that meat and poultry labeled or advertised as “natural” have no artificial ingredients and be “minimally processed.” As long as a processor follows those regulations, it is entitled to call its products “natural.”

The ALDF has vowed to appeal the ruling.