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Eggs-emplary Eggs

November 22, 2010

By Pat Tanner

The incredible egg has taken quite a hit these days, what with outbreaks of salmonella and subsequent recall of millions of eggs from Iowa and Ohio farms. For anyone who has kept a close watch on the state of agribusiness, the revelations of filthy, overcrowded, unhealthy conditions at these farms comes as no surprise. But for typical consumers it was an eye-opener, as our local egg farmers can attest: there has been a virtual run on their products ever since.

In September the Cornucopia Institute, a tax-exempt public interest group whose stated mission is “promoting economic justice for family scale farming,” released the results of research they had been conducting for more than a year comparing name-brand eggs labeled “organic” in supermarkets across the country.

They based their ratings, from five eggs down to one, on 22 criteria important to consumers who shop for organic food. I scoured the list looking for brand-name organic eggs sold at markets in our area. Below is a summary of what I found. The full report may be viewed at cornucopia.org.

Five eggs: “exemplary – beyond organic”

Of the 27 farms to receive this rating, only one’s eggs are sold in our area. Vital Farms (of Austin, TX) eggs are sold at Whole Foods markets.

Four eggs: “excellent – organic, promoting outdoor access”

Five farms made the cut, but none distribute to markets in New Jersey.

Three eggs: “very good – organic, complying with minimum USDA standards”

Four of nine distribute in our area. I have seen Organic Valley and Nature’s Yoke eggs at several supermarkets, but others to look for are Giving Nature, and Pete & Gerry’s.

Two eggs: “Fair – some questions remain concerning compliance with federal standards”

Both farms in this category theoretically distribute to our area: Sauder’s (of Lititz, PA) and The Country Hen (based in MA, but distributing nationwide.)

One egg: “ethically deficient – industrial organic/no meaningful outdoor access and/or none were open enough to participate”

Of the 18 farms here, three are ubiquitous in markets: Eggland’s Best, Horizon Organic, and Land O’Lakes.

The above represent organic eggs sold under the farm name. In addition, the study looked at “private label” eggs, i.e. those sold under the name of chain stores. Among the fifteen that earned a paltry one-egg rating: 365 Organic (Whole Foods), Great Value (Wal-Mart), Kirkland Signature (Costco), Nature’s Promise (Giant; Stop n Shop), O Organic (Safeway), and Trader Joe’s (Trader Joe’s).

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