Food Safety

Does Wal-Mart Lie About “Organic” Eggs?

A lawsuit filed yesterday alleges that Wal-Mart Stores has been lying to its organic customers about the way hens laying the chain’s organic eggs are treated. Paperwork filed under Case Number 4:18-cv-00134 has someone named Donnie Lee Gibson suing Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., claiming that the store promises eggs from birds with access to the outdoors but delivers eggs from hens that, in fact, live in screened-in enclosures.

The supplier, Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., has not, as far as I can tell, gone on the record to dispute the allegation or to defend its use of the “organic” claim. Cal-Maine’s competitors, on the other hand, have been vocal and consistent in pushing back against a USDA rule that allows the use of “organic” to be used under the conditions described in the lawsuit.

Currently, USDA allows structures like roofed porches to count as outdoor spaces. The agency tried in 2016 to pass a rule requiring “outdoors” to mean spaces with at least 50% of the floor space covered by dirt with as much vegetation (defined as living, rooted plant material) as possible. USDA recently announced a plan to withdraw that requirement.

USDA has not weighed in on the lawsuit but estimates that around half of all “organic” eggs come from hens kept in structures like the ones Cal-Maine uses.

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Photo by joaph