Organic Consumers Association

Tell Handsome Brook Farm: Stop Labeling Your Eggs ‘Pasture-Raised’ When They Aren’t!

Handsome Brook Farms egg carton on yellow backgroundIf you’re one of those lucky consumers who can buy eggs from a known source, like a local farmer or neighbor, you don’t have to worry about the label on the carton. You can easily verify if the hens producing your eggs roam free on pastures—or whether they spend most of their lives cooped up.

But consumers who buy their eggs at stores have to rely on labels—and on the honesty of the brands that apply those labels—for information on how various egg brands are produced.

When a company like Handsome Brook Farm goes out of its way to market all its eggs as “pasture-raised”—even though some of them aren’t—consumers end up paying a premium for a low-quality product.

Tell Handsome Brook Farm: Stop Labeling Your Eggs ‘Pasture-Raised’ When They Aren’t!

After you use this form to send a message to Handsome Brook Farm, please add your own comments here. Then call the company at 646-733-4523, post on Handsome Brook’s Facebook page and or tweet @HandsomeBrkFrm.

Handsome Brook Farm owes its fairytale rise from a small backyard operation to the fastest-growing privately held egg company and the 14th fastest-growing food company in the U.S. (according to a press statement) to the company’s aggressive marketing of its eggs as “pasture-raised.”

Not only does Handsome Brook put “pasture-raised” on all its egg cartons, but the company’s website goes out of its way to claim the eggs it sells come from happy chickens clucking around on happy farms:

Our chickens wake up each morning in a nice roomy barn. Just after daylight, we open the BIG barn doors and the hens go outside to forage about, pecking at grass and bugs, socializing with each other, and lying around relaxing in the sun or shade. We provide them with covered areas and fresh water outside. Instinct tells the chickens to return to their barn to lay their eggs and to sleep at night – so when its laying time, they go inside, and when they are done they usually go back outside to play. As it gets dark, the hens go back to the barn on their own (no, we don’t have to “herd” them), we tuck them in by closing the barn doors, and say good night, till morning.

In truth, some of the hens that produce eggs sold by Handsome Brook may enjoy the idyllic life described above. But as we state in a lawsuit we filed last year against the company, many of the eggs marketed under the Handsome Brook name, and labeled “Pasture-Raised,” live very different lives.

Handsome Brook started out as a small company, but grew quickly—thanks in part to its “pasture-raised” marketing claims. Commenting on the growing consumer demand for pasture-raised eggs, Handsome Brook owner Betsy Babcock told

“Superior taste is driving much of this growth. If you've ever tasted a fresh pasture-raised egg, with its creamy bright-orange egg yolk, you know exactly what I'm referring to. (Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you're getting eggs form caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.)”

But as the company grew, Handsome Brook needed help keeping up with demand, so the owners entered into contracts with small farmers—75, by last count—to produce eggs for sale under the Handsome Brook name. Some of those farmers, for a variety of reasons including inexperience, do not meet pasture-raised standards.

Handsome Brook also started purchasing eggs on the open market—and many or most of those eggs don’t meet pasture-raised standards.

To back up its “pasture-raised” claims, Handsome Brook, under a paid, private arrangement, uses the American Humane Association label on its products. But as our lawsuit states, at the time of filing, American Humane certifiers had visited fewer than 10 of approximately 58 farms that supply to Handsome Brook. And when Handsome Brook buys on the open market, the company buys eggs that have not been certified by American Humane Association. Yet Handsome Brook still labels all of the open-market eggs “Pasture-Raised,” and still falsely claims that it is “the only egg provider certified by American Humane Association that is 100 percent pasture-raised.”

Taste is one reason consumers prefer pasture-raised eggs. Nutrition is another. A Penn State study found that eggs from hens raised on pasture had twice the amount of vitamin E and omega-3, a far better omega-3-to-omega-6 ratio, and 38 percent more vitamin A.

And some consumers choose eggs labeled “Pasture-Raised” out of animal welfare concerns, once they learn of the horrific conditions endured by birds confined in factory farm egg operations. A survey by Packaged Facts survey found that 58 percent of consumers are more concerned about food animal welfare now than they were in previous years.

Handsome Brook eggs are sold at over 4,000 retail stores throughout the U.S., including Kroger, Publix, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Wegman's, and independent and natural retailers.

For more information on how to choose organic and pasture-raised eggs, check out Cornucopia’s egg scorecard.

In the meantime, please let Handsome Brook know that it’s not OK to deceive consumers.