According to the USDA, in order to receive official organic certification, egg-laying hens are supposed to have “year-round access to the outdoors including sunlight, shade and exercise areas.” 1 However, apparently, some of the larger organic companies have chosen to interpret those rules quite loosely and have thus housed their chickens packed tightly together on screened-in porches. Make no mistake, there is no way they are pecking in the dirt or wandering outside. You know, normal chicken activity.

And consumers agree with the USDA rules. In fact, about 80 percent of consumers who buy organic products think it’s important that organic eggs come from chickens that have spent time being chickens. And yet, an article in The Washington Post found that Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, home to 1.6 million chickens who supply more than 10% of all organic eggs sold in the U.S., doesn’t allow their birds to set foot outside!2 (But I’m sure they are not alone in their practice.)


And so, with regards to those hens and any others, living in enclosed porches: should they still be considered organic? According to the Organic Livestock and Poultry Production final rule, approved by the USDA, the answer is no.

“The new regulation would require organic egg producers to provide real outdoor space (not just porches) of around 2 square feet per chicken, and that those outdoor areas include vegetation or soil.” 3

Since the final rule has been issued the USDA has said nothing and the Trump administration has put the new standard on hold – even hinting that it might be withdrawn altogether. So, The Organic Trade Association, which represents many smaller organic companies, is now suing the USDA to demand that it allow the new rule to go into effect.4

The new rule is good for the animals and gives egg producers five years to adapt to the new requirements (if requirements aren’t met eggs have to be sold as “cage-free” instead of “organic”). However, many big organic egg producers have continued to oppose the new rules, some even going so far as to appeal to members of Congress, like Senate Agriculture Committee senior Democrat, Debbie Stabenow (who has received THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS in campaign contributions from members of the Herbruck family) who asked that the USDA delay the ruling because “proposed changes to outdoor access standards could have a detrimental impact to both animal health and food safety.”5

You can always tell when people are just making stuff up. More space for animals will always be better for their health than to be tightly packed so disease easily spreads.


We will keep you updated as more information becomes available. But I’ll just say this, simple is best with organic food.

Sources and References

  1. Rodales Organic Life, September 13, 2017.
  2. Rodales Organic Life, September 13, 2017.
  3. Rodales Organic Life, September 13, 2017.
  4. Rodales Organic Life, September 13, 2017.
  5. Rodales Organic Life, September 13, 2017.