Michigan Democrats Stand Up for Factory Farmed “Organic” Eggs

June 7th, 2018

Cornucopia’s Take: Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan helped the Trump administration kill the proposed Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule earlier this year. Stabenow has received almost $30,000 from the behemoth “organic” egg producer Herbruck’s,  a massive confinement operation that uses enclosed porches rather than allowing the birds real outdoor access. View images of their operations from our flyover investigations, along with Cornucopia’s formal complaints to the National Organic Program. Cornucopia Codirector Mark Kastel is quoted extensively in this article from Detroit Metro Times.

Michigan Democrat, Trump team up to kill organic animal welfare rules
Detroit Metro Times
by Tom Perkins

Sen. Stabenow (D), Michigan
Source: USDA

Ask most organic egg and poultry consumers what they imagine organic chickens’ lives are like and they’ll probably describe a bird scratching in the soil, digging for bugs, and kicking up a dust bath on a quaint farm pasture.

However, in reality, many organic chickens are subjected to the same factory farm horrors as conventional birds — their entire lives spent crammed with tens of thousands of other hens in barren, fluorescent bulb-lit sheds with little access to soil or sunlight.

Studies show people who are paying a premium for organically raised chickens usually do so with the expectation that they’re supporting ethically and humanely raised animals. But there exists a gap between what many consumers imagine they are buying and what they are actually buying.

New rules developed by the USDA during the Obama era called Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices took the first steps toward improving living conditions for organic chickens. But Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and the Trump administration successfully worked to kill them earlier this year. Michigan Sen. Gary Peters also opposed the rules.

Critics say factory egg farm campaign contributions influenced Stabenow. She did not address that when asked about it by Metro Times, but campaign finance records show that she received a total of $29,300 in 2012 and 2018 from the family that owns one of the nation’s largest factory organic egg operations, Herburck’s Farm. The Saranac, Mich., factory farm is raisingsix million birds that produce five million eggs daily in Stabenow’s district.

Herbruck’s and similar operations opposed the changes — which were supposed to go into effect in 2017 — from outset because factory farms would’ve been forced to scale back and change their approach to more humanely raise birds, and that would’ve hurt their bottom line.

On the other hand, small-scale, family organic farmers applauded the rules (though many said they didn’t go nearly far enough) because it’s extremely difficult to properly raise organic poultry and turn a profit. Small farms simply can’t compete with large egg producers who raise poultry cheaply in horrific factory farm settings.

Thus the rule changes pitted the needs of ethical family farmers and organic consumers against those of corporate, factory farms, and Stabenow sided with the latter. (It’s worth pointing out Stabenow chose big business over less affluent constituents on issues like GMO labeling and financial deregulation.)

“Stabenow decided to align herself not with hundreds of organic farmers spread throughout Michigan, but one that has an outsized influence on rulemaking in Washington,” says Mark Kastel, director of the Wisconsin-based organic watchdog group, Cornucopia Institute. “That was a real betrayal to the values that the organic movement was founded on. The real losers are people who want healthy birds who go outside and have a diverse diet that will create flavorful and nutritious eggs.”

Further in the story, Kastel also said, “What do Democrats stand for if they don’t stand up for [small organic farmers]? They say they don’t stand for giveaways to giant corporations, but that’s what this is all about.”

To read the complete coverage please visit the Detroit Metro Times.


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