The next time someone asks “Where’s the beef?,” the answer will resoundingly be “Chicago.” In the past two months, the city that put Jurgis Rudkus on the map has become a heated battleground for a wiener war featuring four of the major hot dog producers in the nation.
Oscar Meyer and Ball Park franks today took their cases to federal court to determine whether either of the hot dog makers violated false-advertising laws in their efforts to become the nation’s No. 1 provider of encased meats. The legal beef has been simmering for three years now thanks to thousands of pages of filings from Ball Park maker Sara Lee Corp. and Oscar Meyer maker Kraft Foods Inc.
In the original suit, the AP reports, Sara Lee attacked Oscar Meyer ads in 2009 that said its hot dogs trumped Ball Park franks in a national taste test. Sara Lee alleged the taste test was unfairly tilted in favor of Oscar Meyer dogs because of how the Ball Park franks were cooked and served. The suit also states that Oscar Meyer lied about its franks being made from 100 percent pure beef, and that the brand cast aspersions on Ball Park franks, thereby damaging sales.
Oscar Meyer bit back at Sara Lee, claiming its dogs are, in fact, 100 percent pure beef, and that the intent of the advertisements was simply to promote that fact to customers. Additionally, Kraft filed a lawsuit of its own against Sara Lee, claiming the company ran deceptive ads trumpeting Ball Park franks as “America’s Best Franks,” and that other dogs “aren’t even in the same league.”
While this battle between Oscar Meyer and Ball Park may have implications in regard to how far companies can promote their products in comparison to a competitor’s, another case currently awaiting its day in court takes this predicament a bit further.
Vienna Beef is suing a competitor, Red Hot Chicago, for allegedly stealing a 118-year-old recipe and capitalizing on Vienna’s legacy. In June, InsideCounsel reported on Vienna Beef’s lawsuit against Red Hot Chicago, in which the hot dog maker is accused of false advertising, unfair competition and trademark infringement.