Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs ARE NOT affected by egg recall. See Details »
Pete and Gerry's Caged Hen

What the end of the OLPP rule means for your organic food

The OLPP rule was created to ensure your organic food met the standards you’ve come to expect. That rule was just overturned. Here’s what you need to know.

It probably comes as a little surprise to anyone who reads this blog that the Trump Administration is hostile to small businesses, to everyday consumers, and to, well, animals. On December 15, 2017, they made official what everyone knew was coming: they killed the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) rule.

Read more in this Washington Post article.

A quick review of the OLPP Rule:

The OLPP rule was developed to close a significant gap in the original USDA Organic Standards, between consumer expectations and industry practice. This gap allowed unscrupulous producers to sell cheap organic eggs and meat by raising them in factory farm conditions. As long as the feed was organic, it didn’t matter if the animals were badly cramped and grossly mistreated.

OLPP sought to update the standards such that consumers who paid more for Organic got what they expected: humane treatment and healthy living conditions. It also sought to protect small, responsible farms that were already maintaining high standards of animal care to be able to compete with the rock-bottom prices of Big Ag Organic.

The rule was seven years in the making, going from conception, through public review, and final passage by the Obama Administration in 2016. It was the definition of a thoughtful, democratic process and should have been left in place. Out of the 47,000 public comments made about the proposed rule change, 99.9% were in favor of it.

Just 27 individual comments were opposed to the new rule. These were obviously 27 very powerful voices, however, because the Trump Administration instantly sided with this infinitesimal fraction of the country upon taking office. As Brian Levin of Perky Jerky said: “it’s just about getting the fat cat fatter.”

The results of the decision to kill the OLPP rule

The tragedy here is manifold. There are the small farmers, like those we work with every day, who will continue to have to try to absorb the actual costs of responsible farming, while their giant competitors ignore those costs. And, there are the consumers who are becoming increasingly mistrustful of the USDA Organic seal. This is so unfortunate because so many things about this voluntary standard remain important and meaningful. But it’s no wonder that trust is eroding with decisions like this one.

For now, we will keep up the fight. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has filed a lawsuit to see if a court will reverse this egregious abuse of power and process. Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs will continue to offer Certified Humane Free Range, Organic eggs that meet and exceed the expectations of our customers.

And you can help too; by learning which Organic eggs are following the spirit of the rules, and which are not. Share that knowledge with your friends and family. One way to know is to look for the Certified Humane symbol, the most respected third-party animal welfare certifier in the U.S.

Pete and Gerry's Pasture

What are Pasture Raised Eggs?

It’s a question we’re getting more and more. What does the pasture raised eggs label mean? How is it different from our Free Range pastured hens? And why aren’t Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs pasture raised?

We wrote a longer blog post about this, a little over a year ago, titled ‘Why We Are Free Range and Not Pasture Raised.‘ But, as the question continues to come up, it may be time for an update on the issue.

Humane Treatment of Animals

First of all, we support humane treatment for all farm animals, including hens obviously, and we sincerely hope that people will only buy free range and pastured raised eggs in the future. The Cage Free standard has already been co-opted by factory farms. It is better than the battery cages that still dominate the industry today, but only marginally better, as the hens are essentially confined to larger cages in massive industrial facilities with no outdoor access.

Pasture Raised Eggs vs. Free Range Eggs

As for the difference between free range and pasture raised eggs, they are both excellent standards; provided that they are certified by a credible 3rd party, such as Certified Humane, as ours are. Beyond that, our firm belief is that the amount of space our hens have is more than sufficient. You can see that in all of the photos of our family farms, where the hens rarely cover more than a small fraction of our substantial pastures.

History of Pasture Raised Standards

The much larger space requirement for Pasture Raised actually originates from a British soil management standard defined in the 1940s that was based on rotational grazing needs. In other words, the amount of space per hen was not based on having enough for the hens to be comfortable, but how much you need if you are moving flocks from pasture to pasture.

The idea was to ensure viable grass and soil for other crops or animals after the hens had been on it for a period of time. So the space requirement had nothing to do with animal welfare.

Despite this, it was adopted by the two primary certifiers in the U.S. as the “Pasture Raised” standard. And interestingly, the standard allows for “rotational fencing” meaning that even if they claim 108 sq. ft. per hen, that is the undivided total, not what is available to a hen on any given day.

More space is great. We applaud responsible egg farming at whatever scale. But the more space you use the higher your prices. One only has to look at the price of farmland to know this.

Pasture Raised Eggs vs. Organic Eggs

It’s important to not confuse Pasture Raised eggs with Organic eggs either. They are entirely different things. Laying hens, including Pasture Raised hens, do not get their primary source of nutrition from foraging. It comes from their feed, which is either organic, or it’s not. There are many Pasture Raised Eggs that are not organic as they are fed conventional feed that was grown with pesticides and herbicides.

Our Free Range Organic Eggs

At Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs, we don’t see a meaningful difference in animal welfare between these two excellent standards, so we choose to maintain the Free Range standard and sell our Organic eggs for a bit less money. If you prefer to buy Pasture Raised eggs instead, we are absolutely fine with that. Just know that when you choose our Organic, Certified Humane, Free Range Eggs, you are guaranteed that you are getting an egg laid by a hen that has an exceptionally humane existence.

How Big Food Wants the FDA to Define “Healthy”

A recent article published by vitals.lifehacker.com explains how any food companies find the FDA’s definition of “healthy” to be out dated and are pushing for them to redefine what healthy really means, which is good news for the egg industry.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs: “As the owner [of] Pete & Gerry’s Organics LLC, a Certified Humane, free-range, network of small family farms, it’s not often that I see eye to eye with the [United Egg Producers], as we disagree on farming practices. Where we do agree is that eggs are a very healthy food.”

Read Full Article>>

The 7 Best Clean Dairy and Dairy-Free Products

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs was named in one of the 7 Best Clean Dairy and Dairy-Free Products by cleaneatingmag.com.

“These top-quality, grade-A eggs come from free-range, certified-humane hens fed with 100% organic feed. $6, peteandgerrys.com for where to buy.”

Read Full Article>>

Organic’s New Animal Welfare Standards Are In Jeopardy

A recent article on forbes.com explains that the new organic welfare standards my be in jeopardy as the USDA announced important amendments to its animal welfare standards for organic livestock and poultry.

“Most companies operating under the USDA organic logo are also in favour of these new standards. Perdue Farms, the largest broiler chicken producer in America, supports the new standards as they plan to expand their organic business in the coming years. Pete & Gerry’s, the largest organic egg producer in the US, is already in compliance with the new rules.”

Read Full Article>>

Pete and Gerry’s Unveils Hard-Boiled Egg Pouches

In an article published by groceryheadquarters.com, Lindsey Wojcik discusses Pete and Gerry’s Hard-Boiled Organic Eggs that are now offered in a resealable, portable pouch which are great for healthy snacking.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic eggs are available at more than 9,600 retail locations, coast to coast. The egg producer has Certified B-Corporation status, and the company’s Certified Humane, Free Range eggs have grown as consumer demand for more ethically sourced eggs has driven the category, officials add. “

Read Full Article>>

 

5 Lessons For Building A Sustainable Company From The Chief Executive Farmer Of Pete & Gerry’s

Kate Harrison, Contributor to Forbes Magazine, and Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs CEO, Jesse LaFlamme, discuss building a successful company.

“Jesse LaFlamme returned to his family’s farm after graduating from Bates College in 2000, helping accelerate changes that would ultimately save the farm from going under. Today, Pete & Gerry’s currently supports a network of 125+ small family farms.”

Read Full Article>>

Journey of the Egg – From Farm to Table

How does an egg make it from one of our small family farms to your home?

At the Farm

The journey begins in a nesting box, inside the barn, where one of our hens lays her egg. She will typically lay one egg per day, usually in the morning hours. From there the egg will slowly roll down the inclined, padded surface of the nesting box to the conveyor belt that runs the length of the barn. It will usually sit motionless on the belt until about 11AM when the farmer turns on the belt and gets ready to pack eggs in the packing room. The conveyor delivers the egg, along with several thousand others from that morning, to the packing station. A packing machine gently loads the eggs from the conveyor into plastic trays. The farmer, and if they are lucky a family member or two, run the packing machine, pull out any cracked eggs, and carefully stack the trays of eggs onto a pallet. Each pallet contains 900 dozen eggs. The pallet is then rolled into the adjacent cold storage room that is kept at 45 degrees.

On the Road

Once a week, one of our fleet of “Rooster Cruiser” trucks will turn into the farm and roll up to the small loading dock next to the cold storage room. At that time, the week’s worth of eggs, somewhere between ten to twenty thousand dozen, depending on the farm, will be loaded onto the truck. The truck will make a few more stops at other farms in the area until it is full and then proceed to one of our two processing plants in Pennsylvania or New Hampshire.

In the Plant

At the plant, the egg will now be rolled into our “nest run” cold storage area. When we are ready to run the eggs from that farm, the egg trays are loaded into our egg washer where they first go through an Organic citrus-based solution. Brushes do a gentle scrub before they get a sanitizing rinse.

At this point, things get pretty technical as each individual egg is photographed and cataloged by the computer. The camera is looking for specs of dirt, cracks and other imperfections. It is also gauging the size of the egg so that down the line it will know to send them to the correct packing station for Large, Extra Large, Jumbo and so on. Each egg is also tapped lightly by a tuning fork at this stage to test for hairline cracks that the camera cannot see. Broken or otherwise problematic eggs are pulled from the line automatically. A little less than 1% of them are simply thrown out to become pig feed for other farms and other are sent to a “breakers” line where they are cracked into our liquid egg products. The intact eggs move up the line to the packaging station based on their size and are automatically placed into cartons, never being touched by human hands. From there they go into master cases and are put back onto a truck. See our video of this part of the journey.

To the Store

From here, the trail can get a little complicated. Sometimes, our trucks will deliver right to a grocery chain’s central warehouse and they will redistribute them to their individual stores. In other cases, we might deliver them to an independent distributor to haul for us. And in some cases, we might even deliver our eggs to a big factory farm where they are “cross docked” and loaded onto other trucks that do individual store delivery. That’s because we don’t operate a big enough fleet to drive to individual stores, nor would we have enough eggs of our own to deliver even if we did. So in those cases where a big caged egg company is also the sole egg distributor for a given location, we have to “ride along” with them. That’s why you can see our trucks backed up to these mega farms. It’s not because we’re picking up eggs there, it’s because we’re delivering them there! Not an ideal situation, but for us, the only way to get our eggs where they need to go.

On Your Table

The final leg of the journey is from the store’s back room out to the egg shelf, and then home to your kitchen table. The typical time from nest to table is about 25 days. That is well within what USDA recommends for fresh egg consumption and still leaves plenty of time for you to store in your refrigerator before eating. We print the “Best By” date right on our carton as to when we recommend you consume the eggs by. But don’t worry, eggs are very resilient to spoiling and it’s possible to eat them beyond that date and be fine. We don’t recommend that of course, but typically you only lose a little bit of freshness. A good test if you’re not sure of an egg’s freshness is to drop it into a bowl of water. If it sinks, it’s still fresh. If it floats, that means that the egg has had time to develop air pockets between the shell and the egg and it’s time to toss it.

Once your eggs are safely home from the store and in the fridge, it’s time to cook them up!  If you’re looking for recipe inspiration, here are some of our favorites.

Actually Natural

One sees the term “all natural” all of the time. It is probably the most common two words in the grocery store at this point. That’s because manufacturers know that consumers are trying to find less processed, higher quality products that might have actually come from a farm and not a factory. And All Natural kind of says it all.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean much. In fact, it doesn’t mean anything, because it’s an unregulated term. It probably should mean something. To call potato chips, hot dogs, and things with ingredient statements that are longer than an iTunes license agreement “all natural” seems a bit disingenuous, if not downright untruthful. But the Food and Drug Administration allows it. All it really means is that it’s edible (theoretically). And that’s too bad, because consumers understandably assume that it means much more than that.

(For a humorous take on the use of the claim All Natural, see these hilarious videos by the Organic Trade Association).

In fact, the term sounds so trustworthy, studies show that a higher percentage of consumers trust the All Natural claim to mean no pesticides, no GMOs, no artificial hormones, etc. than those that trust the USDA Organic claim to mean those same things. Yet, that’s exactly what the certified USDA Organic seal guarantees.

In the egg aisle, that means that anyone can say All Natural, because well, it’s an egg, and it came from a chicken. But it doesn’t matter how that chicken was treated, what they were fed, or whether they needed antibiotics in their feed to ward off diseases from the hundreds of thousands of other birds confined to their “barn.” It’s still All Natural.

Hope may be on the way however, as the FDA, in response to public pressure, is reconsidering the definition of the term across all food categories. If you are interesting in commenting, you can go to this web site. The deadline for comments is May 10, 2016.

In the mean time, if you really want eggs from a farm, don’t be fooled by All Natural. Pete & Gerry’s Organic is actually natural.

Around the Coop: All about Eggs! on Midday with Dan Rodricks on WYPR

Find out all about Eggs! on Midday with Dan Rodricks on WYPR

EGGS! on WYPR

EGGS! on WYPR

When you go to the supermarket and head into the dairy aisle one thing stands out–EGGS! When it comes to choosing what kind of eggs you will buy the choice is no longer as simple as grabbing whichever pulp carton contains the best looking eggs (You know we’re all guilty of opening up the egg carton to make sure there aren’t any cracked eggs in the carton). The choices on the egg shelf range from conventional eggs (from hens raised in cages) to cage free eggs to organic eggs.

Cage Free Eggs, Certified Humane Eggs, Organic Eggs

Cage Free Eggs, Certified Humane Eggs, Organic Eggs

As the consumer it is important to be well-informed about the purchase that you are making. When I am shopping I go through a mental checklist every-time I make a purchase based on what is important to me and my family when it comes to health, taste, sustainability, humane treatment of animals, and knowing where my eggs come from (specifically family farms). These are all things that we find important when it comes to the production of our eggs on our own farm and on our family farms (a number which has grown to more than 50 at this point!)

Find out more about our cage free and organic eggs and what we do to support family farms in this interview on Midday with Dan Rodricks on WYPR by following this LINK.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs not affected by egg recall!

Over 200 million eggs have been recalled recently by another company due to a concern over Salmonella stemming from a single Rose Acre Farms location in North Carolina.

None of our eggs are part of this recall as we would never produce eggs on a factory farm of that size or style. If you’re concerned about eggs you purchased recently, see what brands have been recalled.

Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs are produced responsibly and safely on small family farms. Learn more about why our eggs are different.