Unlawful Government Collusion with Big Ag
The USDA’s American Egg Board was unlawfully colluding with Big Ag groups and the world’s largest PR firm to sabotage a plant-based startup. Then we exposed them.
In 2015, our team exposed unlawful collusion between the USDA’s American Egg Board (AEB) and Big Ag industry groups attempting to sabotage the San Francisco plant-based startup, Hampton Creek.
The U.S. egg industry is notorious for the routine cruelty of its operations, including confining hundreds of millions of hens a year in cages so small the birds can’t even spread their wings or turn around. The American Egg Board, which coined the marketing slogan the “Incredible, Edible Egg”, is a U.S. government entity that exists to promote the interests of the $5.5 billion-a-year egg industry.
We obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) revealing the AEB understood Hampton Creek’s eggless mayonnaise product, Just Mayo, to be “a crisis and major threat to the future of the egg product business”.
Consequently, working with egg industry executives, the AEB hired notorious PR firm Edelman to sabotage Hampton Creek. Other clients of Edelman, which self-describes as “the world’s largest public relations firm”, have included a California slaughterhouse shut down over egregious acts of animal cruelty, Fox News’ parent company News Corp, climate change denial organizations, proponents of the TransCanada Pipeline, the right-wing legislative mill American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Saudi Arabia, and the tobacco industry.
The documents we obtained revealed that, among other things, the AEB attempted to have Just Mayo blocked from sale at Whole Foods, advised Unilever (which produces Hellmann’s mayonnaise) on how to sue Hampton Creek, targeted news outlets that published positive press coverage of Hampton Creek, and even jokingly threatened to pay for the assassination of Hampton Creek CEO, Josh Tetrick. Further, the resulting federal investigation of the AEB additionally revealed that, following our exposé, AEB president and CEO Joanne Ivy ordered the destruction of AEB emails mentioning Hampton Creek or Just Mayo. Federal investigators, however, were, able to recover all deleted emails.
Our exposé of the AEB’s unlawful collusion received massive national and international press coverage; sparked a federal investigation of the AEB, resulted in the disgraced resignation of the AEB’s president and CEO, and triggered the introduction of bipartisan legislation to curb future similar abuses by government and industry.
PoTP continues our work exposing government collusion with big Ag.