Are eggs produced by large, organic vendors 100% organic? Certain producers came under scrutiny for selling products that are toeing the line between organic and non-organic. A Washington Post exposé revealed that there are major egg producers that violated USDA requirements for organic livestock.
Is One of America’s Top Organic Egg Producers Actually Organic?
The report, published in The Washington Post, focused on the Saranac, Michigan Eggland’s Best production facility, where an estimated 1 in 10 organic eggs sold in the United States come from.
While most people picture small-scale idealistic farms when they think organic, this facility is anything but according to the investigation: it houses more than 1.6 million hens and they are held in close proximity to each other with no ability to set foot outside, according to unnamed sources.
The sources were people familiar with the operation, and the building plan, as cited in the Post report.
The birds are said to be held at over three per square foot of floor space, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to speak about the company.The Eggland’s best “organic” eggs contain this symbol and are sold at many major grocery stores.
“This is not at all what consumers expect of an organic farm,” said Katherine Paul of the Organic Consumers Association. “It’s damaging to the image of the entire industry. People will wonder, ‘Why the hell am I paying more for this?’ ” Katherine Paul of the OCA
The USDA requirements for organic livestock are outdoor access, direct sunlight, and fresh air, while prohibiting “continuous total confinement of any animal indoors.” They are supposed to be allowed to engage in their “natural behavior,” and if the reports are true than that is simply not the case at this farm, as chickens naturally enjoy roaming outside for food in pastures.
According to Greg Herbruck, the president of Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Saranac which is part of the operation, the entire process is organic.
He said that the Post report was misleading because there are metal shelves that have been constructed to add more space to the area where the birds are kept, but he did not dispute the number of hens per square feet and the size of the barns.
He also declined a Post reporter’s request for a visit saying that it could “possibly infect the flock with a disease such as avian flu” according to the article.
Greg Herbruck, the president of Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch in Saranac which was a part of the exposé, said the Post report was misleading. Herbruck said the birds have ample room to roam although he did not dispute some of the other points highlighted in the report.
Image courtesy of: house on hill road