The farm-focused think tank known as the Cornucopia Institute has put together a national organic egg scorecard that is incredibly interesting for at least two reasons.
The first reason: Perhaps you’re buying eggs (or could be buying eggs) from one or more of the companies they’ve evaluated. Voilà, a Consumer Reports–style rundown on the pros and cons and relative organic-ness of the eggs in question.
The second, far more profound reason: The expansive reach and ball-numbing detail of the chart is, by itself, a great primer in the various ways eggs labeled “organic” can fall short of your hopes and dreams—both for the product itself and the chickens who created it.
Quite a few companies earn desirable five-, four-, and three-egg ratings; a couple earn two-eggers … and a whole bunch earn the disappointing one-egg rating:
“Brands with a ‘1-egg’ rating are generally produced on industrial-scale egg operations that grant no meaningful outdoor access. ‘Outdoor access’ on these operations generally means a covered concrete porch that is barely accessible to the chickens. Means of egress from the buildings are intentionally small to discourage birds from going outside, and make it possible for only a small percentage of birds to have ‘access’ to the outdoors. No producers in this category were willing to participate in The Cornucopia Institute’s project, and none shared their production practices with Cornucopia researchers. This is disturbing to many organic consumers, since transparency has always been viewed as a hallmark of the organic food movement.”
As much fun as big ol’ egg-related charts are—and, really, it’s worth a glance—it’s also interesting to read the story behind the data. Cornucopia filed numerous legal actions in pursuit of its facts, which have been assembled into a report called “Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture” (link leads to a PDF file). There’s even an executive summary for those of us who are time-challenged.