Organic eggs: The phrase brings to mind chickens roaming in a pasture, foraging for food, and scratching the ground. But at California's Petaluma Egg Farm, which provides eggs under the Organic Valley label, hens are confined to screened porches with a roof and a floor. Technically, the eggs meet the organic standards' requirement of allowing hens outdoor access, but a watchdog group says the farm is misleading consumers.
Organic Valley, the largest name-brand organic egg marketer in the country, is a farmer-owned cooperative that sells organic products from 1,617 farms nationwide. Most of its eggs come from family-scale farms, but Petaluma Eggs, which joined the co-op partially to fill a growing desire for organic eggs in California, has been described by Michael Pollan as industrial-scale agribusiness simply trying to look like a family-scale farm. A watchdog group has filed a legal complaint with the USDA calling for a formal investigation, and an advisory panel is considering a change to the USDA's organic standards that would clarify that enclosed spaces don't count as "outdoor access," thus officially putting Petaluma Eggs in noncompliance, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.