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Much movement in the right direction is thanks to groups like Food and Water Watch and American Farmland Trust. (in No Turkeys Here)
Mark Bittman
October 25th, 2011

Consumer Group Calls Perdue PR Effort Regarding Chesapeake Bay Pollution Run-Off Lawsuit “Astroturfing”

SaveFarmFamilies.org Traced Back to Perdue IP Address

Washington, D.C. – Today a national consumer group challenged chicken giant Perdue to step forward and take responsibility for creating the SaveFarmFamilies.org Web site—and to correct misinformation on it regarding the lawsuit filed by Waterkeeper Alliance to address pollution run-off from the Eastern Shore farm of Alan and Kristin Hudson.

In an open letter to Perdue CEO Jim Perdue, Food & Water Watch today questioned its PR strategy behind the lawsuit.

“The website portrays the Hudsons as victims of overzealous persecution by an ‘out-of-state’ environmental group, with barely a mention of Perdue,” wrote Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter in the letter. “Given the amount of misinformation on the site, it’s easy to see why Perdue might want to cover up its role.”

The SaveFarmFamilies.org was registered anonymously though a web register proxy service, but the site’s IP address belongs to Perdue’s web server in Salisbury, Maryland, where it sits alongside Perdue’s chicken recipes and homepage.

“Proxy registrations are for folks who don’t want you to know who owns the site – sort of like proxy farmers are for integrators who don’t want folks to know who really owns the waste,” wrote Hauter.

SaveFarmFamilies.org, launched on October 3, 2011, was purportedly created to help Alan and Kristin Hudson pay their mounting legal bills from a lawsuit filed by the environmental non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance. It claims to be a grassroots effort to help save the “family farm” by portraying the Hudsons, and farmers in general, as victims of radical environmental groups and perpetuates myths about chicken farming in Maryland and the lawsuit itself. In fact, SaveFarmFamilies.org is an “astroturfing” effort—an industry-generated attempt to spread misinformation while purporting to be by farmers for farmers.

In 2006, four processors—including Perdue—controlled nearly three out of five broiler operations in the United States. These companies, known as integrators, control every step of chicken production. The Hudsons are “contract growers” who do not even own the birds that they raise and fatten for Perdue. But they are responsible for disposing of the waste that these birds produce.

The lawsuit is an attempt to get Perdue to take responsibility for the waste produced by their chickens, which growers simply raise under unfair contracts, and to stop polluting the waterways surrounding these contract farms.

“If you really want to help local farmers and communities surrounding the Bay, then you should stop forcing your growers to sign unfair contracts that shift the cost and risk of doing business from the integrator to the grower. It is time to stop the baseless propaganda, stop hiding behind your struggling contract growers, and take responsibility for your production wastes,” concluded Hauter in the letter.

Read Food & Water Watch’s open letter to Perdue here.

Read Six Myths and Facts About Perdue’s Savefarmfamilies.org here.

Contact: Kate Fried, Food and Water Watch, (202) 683-2500, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.

Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.
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