(NaturalNews) The growing popularity of organic food over the past several decades has positively led to both increased availability and affordability. It has also, however, led to the emergence of "organic" factory farm imposters trying to take advantage of the system by cutting corners and selling not-so-organic products. One such operation, Herbruck's Poultry Ranch (HPR), is the subject of a new legal complaint filed by the Cornucopia Institute (CI) over the company's laying chickens which do not have proper outdoor access as they should.
According to the complaint, the Michigan-based poultry operation primarily raises conventional chickens in tiny, confined cages, but they also have nearly a million "organic" hens. US Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic rules stipulate that organic laying chickens must have access to the outdoors throughout the entire year, but HPR only provides them with enclosed, concrete porches and patios that get some sun exposure. Several other suppliers, including one that supplies to Organic Valley, are also guilty of not providing adequate outdoor space for their chickens.
"The federal organic standards clearly state that 'year-round access for all animals to the outdoors' is a requirement," said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst with CI. "The tiny porches attached to the henhouses on Herbruck's Poultry Ranch, Petaluma Egg Farm, a major Organic Valley supplier, and a handful of other industrial egg producers, fail to meet either the intent or the letter of the law governing organic production and food labeling."
The violations are not the first to have taken place in the organic industry, of course. Many NaturalNews readers may remember the Dean Foods scandal from 2007 in which "organic" dairy cows were allegedly being confined to feedlots en masse, just as conventional cows are (http://www.naturalnews.com/021679.html). According to USDA rules, organic cows must be pastured in order to truly be considered organic.
Both the HPR and Dean Foods incidents are highly problematic, as these companies' violations not only tarnish the organic name, but their inadequate products end up sharing shelf space with truly organic products that come largely from small, family farms.
"The people that purchase organic eggs are under the understanding that these eggs are produced in a way to their liking. They are told the hens are able to go out and pick green grass," said Loren Dale Yoder, a certified organic egg producer from Riverside, Iowa, in regards to the complaint filing. 'These are farmers that are cheating."