Posts Tagged ‘Organic Eggs’

Chicken RunOur friend Nancy Stewart alerted us that the dispute over organic egg regulations took a strange turn last week.

The USDA rules require that organic egg-laying hens be allowed access to the outdoors. But advocates for animal welfare feel that large-scale organic egg producers do not currently provide their hens with enough outdoor access. There is an effort to convince the USDA to strengthen the outdoor access requirement.

Now, it turns out that the FDA has a rule of its own for egg farmers. (That’s right, the FDA—a completely separate government department). The FDA “Egg Rule” says if you are a large scale producer (over 3,000 hens), you must takes steps to prevent your hens from picking up the Salmonella Enteritidis bug. The Egg Rule is not new. But the FDA just recently issued a “draft guidance” which basically says that the Egg Rule means that laying hens—even organic ones—should never be allowed outside. At least not in the real world. You can let the hens into an outdoor area as long as you keep them away from all wild birds, rodents, and flies.

Setting aside the annoyance of two different agencies playing tug-of-war with the rules, it just seems wrong that the term “organic” should be watered down in this way. Outdoors where the wild birds are, where the rodents and the flies are—that is exactly where chickens naturally belong. If we can’t let the hens interact with nature, I don’t think we should be calling their eggs “organic.”

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I have just ordered a batch of layer chicks to brood over the winter. Once again, I have ordered extra, and I am offering the extras for sale as certified Organic, ready-to-lay pullets for May pick-up. I am trying a new breed this year: the Red Sex Link (a very productive, brown-egg laying breed). The price will be $18 each, and you can reserve yours with a deposit of $1 per bird. If you are interested in buying some pullets, please send me an email:

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Our organic certification just got expanded! While our pastures have been certified organic for a long time, yesterday we also received certification for the meat chickens, the laying hens, and the eggs we produce on the farm. We have always raised all our livestock according to our personal standard of quality and conscience, which includes feeding only certified organic feed and never treating our animals with hormones or antibiotics. In the case of our chickens, our own protocol (plus certain record-keeping and paperwork) qualifies us for certification. Because we buy calves and piglets from suppliers that aren’t certified, our beef and pork do not qualify for certification. Rest assured, however, we hold our suppliers to our own high standard. For example, we buy calves only from suppliers who agree in writing to our protocol.

Many farmers will tell you: don’t trust government labels. Instead, you should get to know your farmer, and find one you trust personally. We agree. But we also think the organic standards have a lot of merit. So we are proud of the extent to which we meet the standards, and we will continue to strive to do more.

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We have posted before about the controversy over the National Organic Standard strengthening its outdoor access requirement. But we just found this great video by the Cornucopia Institute that explains the issue superbly. Cornucopia has also published a full report on the matter, including a really useful list of how all the organic egg  brands measure up. Interestingly, the only national brand that gets top marks is Vital Farms (sold at Whole Foods). Last I checked, they were getting $5.99 a dozen. This report might jack that price even higher!

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