National Pasteurized Eggs—sold in grocery stores nationwide under the Davidson’s brand—is misrepresenting how its eggs are produced, according to a federal complaint filed by the Humane Society of the United States. The complaint, filed with the Federal Trade Commission, calls for the agency to further investigate potential violations of federal false advertising laws. Davidson’s cartons prominently depict lush open pastures, a red barn and free-roaming hens—despite eggs in those cartons coming from birds permanently locked in cages so tightly they can’t even spread their wings. Contrary to the messaging conveyed on the packaging, these birds never feel sunlight nor touch a blade of grass. (While some Davidson’s eggs are cage-free, even those coming from caged hens are marketed and sold in this deceptive manner.)

The company claims its process “eliminates the risk of Salmonella” from eggs even though caged hens are more likely to spread infection and disease and, as the USDA found, “It is reasonable to assume that people become exposed to Salmonella by consuming pasteurized egg products.”

National Pasteurized Eggs, Inc. is in the process of being acquired by St. Louis-based Post Holdings.

“Post won’t even commit itself to a cage-free future, despite the demands of its customers and moves by its competitors,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the HSUS. “Now Post is buying a company that both sells eggs from caged hens and misleads customers into thinking those eggs are cage-free. The situation’s just rotten.”

Over the last year, more than 200 major food brands—Walmart, McDonald’s, Kroger, Sysco and nearly every other prominent name in food production and retail—have announced timelines for switching to 100 percent cage-free eggs. And many of the largest egg suppliers have responded by announcing their own plans for switching to 100 percent cage-free production.

A copy of the HSUS’ complaint to the FTC is available here.

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