Organic Consumers Association

Urgent! Tell Congress: Stop Protecting Organic’s Rotten Eggs!

For years, a few rotten eggs in the organic industry have managed to bend or circumvent the rules for how laying hens who produce eggs labeled USDA Organic are supposed to be treated.

The National Organic Program (NOP), which operates under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is finally trying to address that problem. But unfortunately, some members of Congress, including members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, are trying to block the NOP’s new proposal.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to stop protecting organic’s rotten eggs! Let the National Organic Program finish its work to improve the lives of egg-laying hens and other animals.

Most organic farmers treat their animals well. They take the organic regulations seriously, including the requirements for “living conditions which accommodate the health and natural behavior of animals” and “access for all animals to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight.”

Unfortunately, there are exceptions. Which means that some animal products, including eggs, that bear the USDA Organic seal come from large factory-farm-type operations where animals are cooped up indoors and subjected to conditions that clearly don’t support their health, much less natural behavior.

For more than a decade, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), at the insistence of the Organic Consumers Association and our allies, has been trying to solve this problem. The NOSB has given the NOP a series of recommendations for more specific animal welfare requirements that would improve enforcement of existing rules, and strengthen those rules.

Finally, in April 2016, the NOP acted on these recommendations with a new proposed rule on “Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices.” The proposal isn’t perfect, but it is a huge step in the right direction. We believe we could get the NOP to do even better—but we can’t do that unless the NOP is allowed to proceed with its new proposal.

Who's trying to block the NOP proposal? Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) are among those who have vowed to defend rotten eggs in the organic egg industry. They support a proposed amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill for fiscal 2017 which could kill the NOP proposal before the USDA has a chance to even review the comments by the June 13 deadline.

The NOP’s new proposed rule is a response to legal complaints against rotten eggs like Herbruck's Poultry Ranch, an Eggland’s Best supplier that confines as many as 2 million organic hens indoors. Herbruck’s continues to brazenly flaunt the fact that it refuses to comply with existing organic regulations requiring “access for all animals to the outdoors.” According to Politico, executive vice president Greg Herbruck reacted to the NOP’s new proposal by saying,  “What makes a bird going outside more organic?”

We think consumers, who consciously choose organic, do so for many reasons, including their own health, the health of the environment, and the health and humane treatment of animals. That’s why we support NOP’s new proposal to improve animal welfare conditions, and enforce the existing animal welfare rules.

TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to stop protecting organic’s rotten eggs! Let the National Organic Program finish its work to improve the lives of egg-laying hens and other animals.