Claiming your meat is "natural" and "humanely raised" could end up costing a company more than just the effort of finding dedicated suppliers. Especially if its customers are looking for sustainable, humanely raised meat and dairy products and then find out that what they'd been eating is anything but.
The fast-casual Mexican chain Dos Toros, is learning the hard way that when you market meat to environmentally conscious consumers, you better know what takes place on your meat producers' farms. A recent class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York is accusing the chain of misleading customers with claims of "naturally" and "humanely" raised meat, while serving them pork and chicken from producers with practices that amount to animal cruelty.
The lawsuit indicates in detail the merciless methods that the meat companies employed while supplying the fast-casual Mexican franchise. Clemens Farms, which produces pork for Dos Toros, is accused of routinely using "unnatural" industrial conditions that do not include access to the outdoors for the animals' entire lives. It cites complaints that date back to 2018, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended operations at a Clemens slaughterhouse for "egregious inhumane handling" of a pig.
Additionally, FreeBird, the chain's chicken supplier, was cited as having documented cases of birds suffocating, being "boiled alive," and suffering injuries such as broken wings.
Dos Toros has released a statement saying it is "taking (the allegations) very seriously."
Although it could be said that any treatment from a farm that produces meat isn't "humane," the lawsuit asserts that any "reasonable consumers" would not perceive the incidents documented at the suppliers' farms as acceptable. Additionally, the suit says Dos Toros is guilty of "deceiving consumers about the source of its products," for their own profit. The chain prominently displays signage in its restaurants that say its pork and chicken is "humanely" and "naturally" raised.
As a growing trend, consumers are more concerned than ever about where the meat found at restaurants and grocery stores comes from. In the past few years, Chipotle and Whole Foods have come under fire for similar claims of "naturally raised" and "humane meat" when the actual supplier practices were murky. Currently, even investors have pressured chains to clean up their suppliers, as Carl Icahn recently did at McDonald's regarding its pork supply.
Dos Toros operates 22 locations in New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. The chain specializes in fresh ingredients and Mexican-inspired fast-casual food.