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. (Read more organic food stories.)