Organic Producers Battle Trump Administration Over Egg Standards

If you’re an egg consumer, chances are high that you’ve gravitated towards organic eggs because of the alleged benefits for the environment and animals. But while the organic label has strict standards, egg labeling can be confusing — and what you’ve heard about organic eggs may not mean what you think it does.

Now, the confusion is getting even murkier, courtesy of a three-way battle between the Trump administration, industrial organic producers and small farms.

First, the basics: Organic egg standards do indeed include specifications for animal welfare, like”year round access to the outdoors.”

That sounds like your chickens are pecking around in a grassy pasture, right? Actually, wrong — and that’s where the debate lies. Some farmers build little screened porches for their hens and argue that this is sufficient space. Others actually pasture their chickens, claimingthat this embodies the spirit of the regulation.

Who’s right? Small farmers are asking the USDA for clarification on theissue, because it has a tremendous impact on how and where they raise their chickens. Industrial producers, meanwhile, arehappy to keepthings vague. After all, it’s hard to deal with the logistics of outdoor access when your flock includes thousands or even millions of birds. According to NPR, roughly half of organic eggs come from huge industrial farms like these.

But in the twilight days of the Obama administration, chickens scored a win with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which approved the Organic Livestock and Poultry Rule on January 19, 2017. Given what occurredthe followingday in U.S. history, you can probably guess what happened next: The rule was delayed, with the Trump Administration threatening to withdraw it altogether.

Delays like these are not uncommon from the administration, which has registered strong disapproval of the regulatory process. TheOrganic Trade Association is suing, claiming the administration violated multiple laws in delaying implementation of the rule.

Meanwhile, industrial organic is doing some work of its own, leaning on lawmakers to pressure the USDA to revise or withdraw the rule.

They’re counting on people like DemocratDebbie Stabenow, who represents a big farming state, to put the brakes on a regulation that could really snarl business for industrial producers. Arguments against the rule include claims that stakeholders didn’t have enough time to weigh in — a frequent complaint from those opposing regulations developed during the Obama era, despite the fact that agencies followed rulemaking processes precisely, and these processes included multiple public comment periods.

In this case, the battle over the regulation is similar to those being fought across the government as the Trump administration works to undo carefully developed regulations. But it also highlights a bigger argument over what it means to be organic — and whether the spirit and letter of the organic movement are still aligned. Some small farms are aiming for “beyond organic,” feeling that the standards no longer accurately represent the intentions of those who developed organic food in the first place.

If chicken welfare matters to you, consider checking out the Cornucopia Institute’s Organic Egg Scorecard, which audits egg producers to see who’s meeting the standard, and who’s going above and beyond. As a consumer, you have the power to use this information to choose which products to buy, and to ask your grocer to consider only stocking eggs produced by reliable farmers.

Photo credit: Scott Woods-Fehr

69 comments

Elaine W
Elaine W10 days ago

Some regulations are necessary to protect. Not everyone does the right thing just out of the goodness of their hearts. Cut corners and make money for himself is t rump's style.

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Kimberly W
Kimberly Wallaceabout a month ago

TY

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Jaime J
Jaime Jabout a month ago

Thank you!!!

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Kyle N
Kyle Nabout a month ago

eggs an egg, they all taste the same.

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Janis K
Janis K1 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Paulo R
Paulo Reeson1 months ago

ty

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Elaine W
Elaine W1 months ago

Do not count on t rump to do the right thing.

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heather g
heather g1 months ago

Life seems to be an uphill struggle for mindful Americans

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Mona Pietsch
Mona Pietsch1 months ago

TYFS

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Carl R
Carl R1 months ago

thanks!!!!

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