USDA Announces Changes to Upcoming Organic Egg Regulations
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced plans to withdraw a regulation that would change the way organic egg producers are required treat their hens. The proposed rules, which were set forth by the previous administration, would require that hens producing organic eggs be given room to graze outdoors.
According to NPR, the withdrawal comes as little surprise. The department of Agriculture had delayed the date the regulations were scheduled to take effect several times.
While these types of decisions can result in outrage from consumers, this time the majority of the backlash is coming from certain producers. Currently, industry giants, like Herbruck's Poultry Ranch which produces Eggland’s Best, often rely on chicken coops with enclosed ‘porches’ that house tens of thousands of hens. These would no longer have been considered adequate had the proposed regulations taken effect.
In September, NPR reported that the Organic Trade Association, which represents a number of organic food producers, initiated a lawsuit against the USDA demanding the new space requirements be enforced. Organic farmers argue the rule helps even the playing field when it comes to competing with large factory farm producers.
However, the result would likely be costlier organic eggs at the store. According to the L.A. Times, the USDA estimates the new rules would have driven organic egg prices up between 21 to 50 cents per dozen.
The L.A. Times also reported that large-scale producers argue that the change would “expose birds to disease from wild birds and rodents” and be so untenable that an estimated half would simply leave the market, driving up prices.
The USDA says it will open a public commenting period on the withdrawal of the regulations before making a final decision early next year.