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‘Why the Hell Am I Paying More for This?’ Major Egg Operation Houses ‘USDA Organic’ Hens at Three per Square Foot

An investigation by The Washington Post has found when it comes to Eggland’s Best eggs, as well as many others labeled as “USDA Organic,” the hens laying those eggs are cramped three to every square foot of floor space. Plus, they never see the light of day outside — directly opposite USDA’s requirements that they have access to the outdoors, direct sunlight and fresh air. And since they’re not going outside, they also aren’t able to naturally forage for their own food, take dust baths or spread their wings and fly — all things expected of a USDA Organic chicken farm.

The “USDA Organic” label sends a message that this product not only is grown or raised differently from conventional methods, but meets certain higher standards. But as you can see by the Post’s article, it appears that the “organic” eggs you think you’re getting in your local grocer’s aren’t quite what they’re labeled as — and are, indeed, closer to the definition of factory farm-raised than they are organic.

Factory farms — aka, “CAFOs,” or confined animal feeding operations — raise large numbers of animals, typically 1,000 or more in a small, confined area. Additionally, conventional CAFOs feed their animals grain-based, genetically foods and antibiotics. According to the CDC, there are 12 antibiotic-resistant pathogens that pose a "serious" threat to public health, and one-third of them are found in food. In the U.S., an estimated 80 percent of antibiotics sold end up in livestock.

In May 2016, I urged you to pressure poultry giant Sanderson Farms to join other major poultry producers in taking proactive steps to reduce its antibiotic use. Instead, Sanderson said it would continue using antibiotics, claiming the antibiotic-free chicken trend is nothing but a marketing ploy. Meanwhile, other producers, including Perdue, did slash antibiotic usage. But when The Washington Post finds that so-called “organic” farms are blatantly stretching the limits for “organically-raised” chickens, the only thing left to do is stay local. Shop your local farmers markets. Inquire as to where local, small farmers are raising true organic chickens and eggs, and buy from them. It may cost a little more, but it’s worth it in the end — for you and the chickens.
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