business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that Tyson Foods is suing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), charging that the government’s decision to stop it from claiming that its chickens are raised without the use of antibiotics was arbitrary and capricious.

According to the story, “Earlier this month, the USDA required Tyson to remove its hot selling Raised Without Antibiotics chicken label after the department said the company was using antibiotics in its hatcheries two to three days before the chicks were hatched. The USDA concluded that Tyson's chicken was therefore not raised without antibiotics … Tyson contends that the USDA is misinterpreting the word ‘raised’ to mean chicken that was raised with antibiotics ‘in ovo,’ or ‘in the shell before hatching.’ Instead, Tyson says the correct interpretation of the word ‘raised’ should mean ‘the period between hatching and slaughter’.”

The USDA previously had approved the use of the label, and then reversed itself. Tyson has said it will not use the label until the rules are clearer…and the lawsuit seems aimed at forcing the government to be specific and accurate in its definitions.

Meanwhile, Tyson itself is being sued by two competitors – Perdue and Sanderson Farms – that claim its advertising of the antibiotic-free chickens has been false and misleading, costing the two companies millions of dollars in sales.

KC's View:
In terms of simple English, Tyson would appear to be correct. But if we are actually talking about scientific and regulatory jargon…then, who knows?