Egg marketing is full of confusing terms like “all-natural,” “cage-free,” “free-range,” “farm-fresh,” “no hormones,” “with Omega-3s,” and so on. But which organic eggs are the closest to what you imagine on the images represented in marketing material of that organic label? You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best collagen sans heavy metals & phthalates, best & worst organic milk, and safest ketchup brands sans PFAS “forever chemicals”, now join us for a ranking of the best & worst organic egg brands.
Disclosure: This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. This post also contains affiliate links.
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Not All Organic Egg Farmers Are Honoring Organic Principles
Organic eggs first popped up in grocery stores in 2002 when the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) instituted the USDA Organic Certification. Farmers desired to create a food system that preserved the environment, supported family farmers, and treated animals with respect as living beings, and consumers bought food products as an alternative to the industrialized food system.
According to Cornucopia, The principles of organic are about “building soil fertility, maintaining ecological balance, promoting biodiversity, reducing dependence on off-farm inputs, recycling nutrients, and allowing livestock to display their natural instinctive behaviors.” Most consumers believe that purchasing organic means they are getting products that mirror those ideals.
However, as organic food gained in popularity, industrialized food system styled egg farms started becoming more common and the organic standards and certifiers starting looking the other way. Are these farms practicing sustainable agriculture by which the organic seal was founded?
Types of Organic Egg Producers
There are many types of organic eggs with USDA standards. The organic flock may vary in size, but all are producing organic chicken eggs.
Pasture-Based Organic Egg Farms
These egg farms have chickens in mobile chicken coops that rotate throughout the pasture. Here the birds are allowed to roam freely and the farmers move the mobile chicken coops so they are never on the same pasture for very long. This allows them to forage, scratch, and flap their wings and gives them fresh grass, grubs, earthworms, seeds, and insects as part of their natural daily diet. They are constantly exposed to sunlight and fresh air.
Enhanced Outdoor Access Egg Farms
These egg farms are referred to as “pasture-raised” and it’s inside fixed housing with access to pastures outside. These systems typically have good vegetative cover and have outside enrichments as organic chicken feed, water, and shade to encourage them to forage, scratch around and flap their wings. The number of chickens in these types of farms ranges between 500 to 7,000 chickens.
Fixed Housing Egg Farms
These egg farms are commonly family-scale-sized operations and have ample access to outdoor space for all the hens simultaneously. The number of chickens in these types of farms ranges between 1,000 to 2,000 birds. These hens generally live on the floor, not in cages, and have nest boxes, perches, and litter. Some of these aviaries have multiple levels for hens to access. These would be considered “cage-free eggs.”
Industrial-Scale Egg Production Farms
These egg farms are rather large consisting of between as many as 125,000 to 150,000 hens. They do not provide the hens with access to outdoor vegetated space and are instead confined to a warehouse. Sometimes a small amount of the hens have access to enclosed porches which passes as “outdoor access” frequently using two-story barns described as “glorified cages.”
Cornucopia Monitors Organic Egg Quality For Consumers
In 2012, the Cornucopia Institute published their first organic egg report called Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Production complete with an online scorecard looking to over 1000+ organic certified egg producers. On August of 2021 they updated that list with the most recent surveys from organic egg producers.
How Organic Egg Brands Were Evaluated
In terms of chickens eating organic feed and not being given antibiotics, you have very little worries with most organic egg operations. Most of the challenges around ranking organic eggs have to do with how humanely the chickens are treated. Here are some of the criteria that are ranked.
- Ownership of farm–family farms are prioritized over large investor-owned operations
- Average flock size–500 birds or less are prioritized over 20,000 birds or more
- Other certifications–Animal Welfare Approved, Biodynamic Certified, & Certified Naturally Grown are prioritized over certifications like American Humane Certified or Global Animal Partnership
- Which organic certifier is used–NOFA, Vermont Organic Farmers, Organic Certifiers, EcoCert ICO are prioritized over certifiers like CCOF, National Food Certifiers, Quality Certification Services, Quality Assurance International or OTCO.
- Commitment to organic–a farm that is 100% organic is prioritized over a split operation where organic and caged conventional hens are on the same property
- Indoor space per bird–a farm giving birds 1.8 square feet per bird OR full access to the outdoor are prioritized over less than 1.2 square feet per bird.
- Indoor enrichments–perches, scratching areas, and deep litter are prioritized over no perches, scratching areas, and bare flooring.
- Litter management–litter is freshened weekly and/or has year-round pasture access is prioritized over when litter is not freshened at all.
- Natural light–birds have access to the outdoors for natural light is prioritized over henhouses that are lit by artificial light.
- Outdoor space per bird–when birds have 108 or more square feet per bird are prioritized over no outdoor access
- Outdoor enrichments–when birds have feed and water and shade in the outdoors are prioritized over just shade or no outdoor access.
- Outdoor management system–a rotating pasture system with mobile housing that is moved every 1-2 days is prioritized over fixed housing with perches or fenced-in sunrooms.
- Manure handling system–when manure is recycled on the farm is prioritized over when manure is managed in a pond or slurry system.
- Beak trimming–no beak trimming is prioritized over beak trimming
- Laying hen lifespan–when hens live an average of 3 years or longer are prioritized over hens that live less than 1.5 years on average.
- Use of spent hens–when hens stop laying eggs they are able to live out their natural life on the farm are prioritized over when they are sold off or composted because they are a biosecurity risk.
- Feed produced on-farm–feed that is produced on the farm is prioritized over no feed produced on the farm.
Mamavation’s Investigation of Organic Egg Brands
Mamavation followed Cornucopia’s scorecard of organic eggs brands to bring you a ranking of “not our favorite”, then better and best. We ranked 5 star eggs in the “best” category, the 3-4 star eggs in our “better” category, and the 1-2 star ranking eggs in our “not our favorite” category.
Not Our Favorite Organic Egg Brands
These organic egg brands rated 1-2 stars on Cornucopia’s list, which is the poorest quality on the market. A 2 star rating is considered “Fair” which indicates there are some questions regarding compliance of the organic standards. A 1 star rating means “industrial organics” with no meaningful outdoor access and/or are non-transparent. Outdoor access on these operations mean covered concrete porches which are barely accessible to chickens.
- 365 Organic (Whole Foods/Amazon)
- Abbotsford (Michael Foods)
- Balducci’s (Kings Food Markets)
- Barnstar Family (Nucal Foods)
- Born Free (Best Eggs LLC)
- Braswell Foods (Glenwood)
- Cadia (Kehe)
- Chino Valley Ranchers
- Circle JD Ranch
- City Farm
- Clearly Organic (Associated Wholesale Grocers)
- Contented Hen (Mid-States Specialty Eggs)
- Dutch Farms
- Eagle Sprints Organics
- Earth’s Pride (BJ’s Wholesale)
- Eggland’s Best (Cal-Maine/Herbruck’s)
- Eggs “R” Us (Mid-States Specialty Eggs)
- Esbenshade Farms
- Fairfield Specialty Eggs
- Fairway Market
- Farmer’s Harvest (CCF Brands)
- Farmer’s Hen
- Farmhouse Eggs (Cal-Maine)
- Fresh Market
- Full Circle (Topco)
- Gemperle Family Farms
- Glaum Egg Ranch
- Good and Gather (Target)
- Great Day (CCF Brands)
- Great Value (Walmart)
- Green Way (A&P)
- Harris Teeter Naturals (Kroger)
- Harvest Farms Organic (Ingles)
- HEB Grocery Company
- Herbruck Poultry Ranch
- Hickman’s Family Farm
- Hidden Villa Ranch
- Hillandale Farms
- Horizon Organic (DanoneWave)
- Judy’s Family Farm (Petaluma)
- Kings Food Markets
- Kirkland Signature (Costco)
- Kreher’s Eggs
- Land O’Lakes
- Lunds and Byerly’s
- M and M Organic Farms
- Marketside (Walmart)
- Meijer Organics
- Natural Directions (Unified Grocers)
- Naturally Organic (National Food Corp.)
- Nature’s Basket
- Nature’s Place (Delhaize)
- Nature’s Promise
- Nest Fresh Eggs
- Noah’s Pride (Kreider Farms)
- O’ Organics (Safeway)
- Oakdell Egg Farms
- Pearl Valley Specialty Eggs
- Purely Organic (Tesco)
- Rock Hill Foods (formerly Arkansas Egg Company)
- Rocky Mountain Eggs (Nucal Foods)
- Roundy’s Organics
- Shoprite (Wakefern)
- Simple Truth (Kroger)
- Simply Nature (Aldi)
- Sprouts Market
- Stew Leonard’s
- Sun Valley (Smart and Final)
- Trader Joe’s
- Vega Farms
- Wellsley Farms (BJ’s Wholesale)
- Wild Harvest (UNFI)
- Willamette Farms
Better Organic Egg Brands
These brands received a 3 and 4 star rating on Cornicopia’s list. These brands are of average organic quality and are easier to find in stores. A 3 star rating means “good to very good” meaning they comply with organic standards. Typically these are small family farms giving birds outdoor runs for their chickens OR are larger scale farms that do an adequate job of providing outdoor spaces. A 4 star rating means “excellent” meaning they promote outdoor access by giving birds providing excellent outdoor environments.
- Alderfer Eggs
- Apricot Lane Farms
- Bethesda Farms
- Blue Sky Family Farms (Egg Innovations)
- Carol’s (Pete and Gerry’s)
- Clover Sonoma
- Country Hen
- Farmers Hen House
- Great Valley Organic Eggs
- Green Field Farms
- Green Pasture Poultry Farm
- Happy Egg Co.
- Handsome Brook Farm
- Hidden Camp
- Lancaster Farms
- Mary’s Organic Eggs (Pitman Family Farms)
- Milo’s Organic
- Mud Run Farm
- Nature’s Yoke (Westfield Egg Farm)
- New Century
- Oliver’s Organic Eggs (Can-Am Farms)
- Organic Valley
- Pete and Gerry’s
- Schultz’s Eggs
- Smith Brothers
- These Came First (Natural Grocers)
- UTOPIHEN Farms (Westfield Egg Farm)
- Wilcox Farms Pasture-Raised
- Wilcox Farms
Best Organic Egg Brands
These brands have a 5 rating on Cornucopia’s Organic Egg list. Most of these brands have a lower distribution and are very difficult to find inside stores. Brands with a 5 rating represent the top tier of the organic system. They are small to medium sized farms generally raising chicken in mobile housing with well-managed and ample pasture. They are mostly found in farmers markets and co-ops, and sometimes in independently run natural grocery stores. Sometimes you can find them in places like Whole Foods if they are local to the area.
- Alexandre Kids (Alexandre Family Farms)
- Apple Creek
- Bee Heaven/Rachel’s Eggs
- Burroughs Family Farm
- Clean Food Farm
- Common Good Farm
- Crown S Ranch
- Deck Family Farms
- Doolittle Farm
- Dream Farm
- Eight Mile Creek Farm
- Farm & Wilderness
- Great Valley Pastured Eggs
- Happy Chick Farm
- Happy Hens
- Happy Town Farm
- Hoover Ranch
- Kingbird Farms
- Mission Mountain
- Misty Meadows Farm
- Mosel Eggs
- Nick’s Organic
- Niki Farms
- OrgaNick Pastures
- Pasture Fresh
- Pasture Patterns (Prairie Bluff Farms)
- Pin Oak Place
- PNS Farms
- Shenandoah Family Farms Cooperative
- Skagit River Ranch
- SOVA Farm
- Stueve’s Certified Organic
- Turtle Ledge Farm
- Villageside Farm
- Vital Farms
- World’s Best Eggs