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Organic Egg Scorecard Criteria

Ownership Structure
Commitment to Organic Label
Add On Labels
Flock Size(s)
Hen Housing Type
Indoor Spacing
Outdoor Spacing
Quality of Outdoor Access
Outdoor Access Timing
Chicks and Pullets
Deaths, Culls, and Spent Hens
Environmental Impacts
Feed Sourcing
Animal Welfare
Soy free and/or gluten free? (non-scoring)
Organic Certifier (non-scoring)
Extra Credit

Ownership Structure

Some brands comprise a single farm or neighboring farms; others source from multiple farms/operations. The Ownership Structure score reflects how closely the brand owner manages the final product. Single or neighboring farms that interact with hens daily score the highest; businesses that contract egg production and lack direct, routine interaction with the laying hens score the lowest.

100 Daily, hands-on interaction with the laying hens and farm business. Usually a single farm that produces all eggs sold
80-90 Farmer-owned cooperative or similar, in which members produce all eggs sold and have a voice in the business
75 Closely managed business that contracts with other farmers and conducts routine in-person inspections of farms and hens
50 Contract-based production. Conducts in-person inspection on an annual basis only
30 Contract-based production with a history of complaints
0-30 Non-transparent structure
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Commitment to Organic Label

Brands that sell only certified organic products, or source from contracted farms that produce only certified organic products, are typically more dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the organic label. Brands that source conventional and organic eggs from the same property (physical location) cannot prove beyond a shadow of doubt that eggs have not been comingled or mislabeled. Suppliers on these “split operations” are more likely to be caught in fraud or mislabeling products. They may also switch back and forth between organic and conventional (often free range) egg production in the same housing structures.

100 These brands source 100% organically certified inputs and only sell certified organic eggs
85 These brands sell certified organic eggs. They also have a conventional product line with eggs from suppliers that are in the (three-year) process of transitioning to organic certification
75 These brands sell both organic and conventional eggs, but their egg suppliers produce their organic eggs in a location that is separate from their conventional egg production.
50 These brands sell only organic eggs, although some of their suppliers have “split operations” with organic and conventional eggs produced on the same property.
25 These brands sell both organic and conventional eggs and source primarily from “split operations” with organic and conventional eggs produced on the same property.
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Add On Labels

Some egg brands opt to add other certifications on top of organic certification. Third-party animal welfare labels have become increasingly common due to lackluster poultry welfare standards under the organic label (as of 2023). While an additional label can demonstrate commitment to certain standards, some add-on labels contribute to the “greenwashing” and “humanewashing” we see in the organic egg marketplace. Our rating system for third party add-on labels for organic eggs is based on how meaningful and robust the standards are and how they are enforced.

100 Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), Biodynamic, Real Organic Project (ROP), Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC)
80 Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), Salmon Safe, Wildlife Friendly, Predator Friendly, Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Step 5/5+
60 Certified Humane/ Certified by Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) (Pasture Raised), Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Step 4, American Humane Certified (AHA) (pasture raised)
50 Certified Humane/ Certified by Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) (Free Range), Non-GMO, American Humane Certified (AHA) (free range)
40 Global Animal Partnership (GAP) Step 3
30 Certified Humane/ Certified by Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) (no outdoor access required/Cage Free), GAP Step 2 (and below), American Humane Certified (AHA) (cage free)
0 United Egg Producers or no add-on labels
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Flock Size(s)

Flock size indicates the number of birds of laying age that are managed in each barn or housing structure. Flock size also represents the hens’ potential “social group.” Lower flock sizes typically offer greater animal welfare benefits.

100 Flocks of 500 birds or less
90 Flocks of 1,000 birds or less
75 Flocks of 10,000 birds or less
50 Flocks of 20,000 birds or less
20 Flocks over 20,000 birds
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Hen Housing Type

The best hen housing is clean, provides ample space for natural behaviors, and prevents social stressors. Highly rated housing must offer regular access to the outdoors. Exits should allow all hens to access the outdoor area at the same time. Brands with multiple suppliers receive an average score based on the various systems used.

Mobile housing ensures high-quality outdoor access by regularly moving to fresh ground. One common example of mobile housing is “chicken tractors,” which keep hens in an enclosed pen, but allow air flow and sunshine, as well as access to the ground and vegetation.

Enhanced fixed housing rotates the hens’ access to high-quality outdoor space through multiple doors all around the building. The indoor space features enrichments such as deep bedding and perches. Natural (over synthetic) lighting is prioritized.

Double/aviary style housing is found in fixed barns that provide multiple “shelves” for  hens to access overhead space. This type of housing is designed to increase the number of birds producers can pack into barns.

This scoring category considers how easily birds can leave their house to utilize outdoor areas. All hens should be able to exit freely, without impediments or social stressors, as soon as the doors are opened each day. (Laying hens sleep at night, and doors are typically locked to protect hens from nighttime predators.) Both mobile and stationary housing can offer unencumbered exits, an important aspect of high-welfare housing.

Top operations on our scorecard exceed industry standards for swift exits by offering large doorways. In contrast, industrial-scale brands housing tens of thousands of birds often utilize just a few small popholes leading to a small porch or token gravel strip.

Hens that are forced to crawl over hundreds of other birds or navigate other obstacles en route to a pophole may stop trying to access the “outdoors.”

100 Mobile housing, hens can all exit freely within one hour of doors opening
85 Enhanced fixed housing where hens can all exit freely within one hour of doors opening
70 Fixed housing with rotated or otherwise good quality outdoor space but questionable access through popholes or other doorways
30-70 Some other combination of fixed housing and exit areas (see notes)
0 Double/aviary style fixed housing with higher stocking density and poor exit areas, with evidence all birds cannot use the outdoor space
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Indoor Spacing

For birds, high animal welfare means having enough room to move freely, stretch their wings, and easily escape aggressive flock members. Environments that provide enough space for the birds to perform all their natural behaviors receive the highest score.

100 Provides at least 1.8 square feet per adult bird indoors, or uses mobile coops where the birds are only indoors to lay and sleep
80 Provides 1.5 – 1.79 square feet per bird
50 Provides 1.21-1.49 square feet per bird
20 Provides 1-1.2 square feet per bird
0 Provides less than 1 square feet per bird
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Outdoor Spacing

Calculations for outdoor spacing can sometimes be misleading. Many brands post their square footage per hen without noting whether the hens are outside year-round or just seasonally. Cornucopia’s scoring mechanism primarily weighs how much space the birds have throughout the active season, meaning the time they’re actually allowed to go outside. In some climates, hens are only outside during the growing season, so the supplier’s location (and climate) is considered in this score.

Mobile housing, especially chicken tractors, may also provide less space per day on paper compared to a fixed barn with massive acreage outside the doors. However, the former offers more usable space. Land can be counted into space allowance even when the chickens are unable to access it. Mobile housing or even well-rotated outdoor space close to fixed barns allows the chickens to be introduced to fresh ground regularly.

The most consequential factor, for both the hens and the operation’s Outdoor Spacing score, is whether the hens remain uncrowded and have enough space to perform natural and instinctive behaviors, including foraging, dust bathing, grooming, etc. When housing and outdoor access vary seasonally, the housing that the birds spend the most time in is given more weight.

100 Provides at least 108 square feet per bird, Cornucopia’s ideal, over the active season. Less space may receive full points if the quality of the access is otherwise superb in mobile coops (see notes in brand’s score, if applicable)
30-90 Outdoor spacing does not reach Cornucopia’s ideal (see notes for details on individual brand requirements)
20 Provides approximately 2 square feet per bird
0 Illegitimate outdoor access (poultry porches, token access that the birds do not use, etc.)
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Quality of Outdoor Access

The following is considered when rating outdoor access on a sliding scale:

  1. Whether exits allow all birds to freely use the outdoor space
  2. The quality of the soil and the amount of vegetation (concrete and gravel surfaces score low)
  3. The presence of feed, water, and shade structures (natural shade structures are especially good)
  4. How the outdoor space is rotated and managed
  5. If the birds get year-round outdoor access and/or have access to “winter gardens” that allow them to forage while protected from the elements.
100 Frequently (every 1-2 days) rotated outdoor space with 80-90% or higher vegetation requirements, where all birds can readily access the space and enrichments.
80-90 Frequently (every 1-2 days) rotated outdoor space with 75% or higher vegetation, where all birds can readily access the space and enrichments
75 Outdoor access is rotated and at least 50% vegetative cover is required (considering seasons); birds are able to utilize the space
60 Outdoor space is not rotated but the brand requires at least 50% vegetative cover (or similar access) at all times and the birds are able to utilize the space
40 Outdoor space is not rotated, and the brand does not require vegetative cover, but the birds are able to utilize the space
25 Outdoor access is provided but it is poorly utilized by the birds and/or the brand uses exemptions on outdoor time frequently
10 Outdoor access is token and not all the birds in a house are able to use the outdoor space at the same time
0 Outdoor access is illegitimate and provided by “porches”
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Outdoor Access Timing

The stage at which birds are introduced to and/or are allowed to head outdoors is often dependent on the weather and climate of the region in which the producers reside. Research shows that the sooner pullets (young chickens before they start laying) are introduced to the outdoors, the more likely they are to use outdoor areas as adults. Some brands go above and beyond and introduce their birds to the outdoors when they are just a few weeks old. Because this practice usually indicates extreme hands-on attention and care while setting the birds up for a quality life outdoors, it gets extra points.

125 Birds are allowed and/or introduced to the outdoors as chicks, with full outdoor access given by 4-6 weeks
100 Hens are given full outdoor access after 6 and before 11 weeks of age
80 Full outdoor access given after 11 and before 16 weeks of age
60 Full outdoor access given between 16 and 21 weeks of age
25 Full outdoor access given after 21 weeks of age
0 No legitimate outdoor access
0 No answer/information not confirmed


This scoring area addresses both indoor and outdoor enrichments. Year-round access to perches, scratching areas, deep litter, novel foodstuffs, and dust bathing access receive the highest score for enrichments. Good outdoor enrichments entice the birds to fully utilize and explore their outdoor space. Some brands also provide novel outdoor enrichments, such as hay bales.

(See the notes in the individual brand for details about the enrichments this brand provides.)

100 High quality enrichments are provided both indoors and outdoors, along with legitimate outdoor access to vegetation (for all brand suppliers)
80 Enrichments are provided only indoors (in all suppliers, as a brand standard), but the brand provides legitimate outdoor access
50 Limited enrichments used by suppliers
25 No brand requirements for enrichments but the housing is bedded, unknown what individual suppliers use otherwise
0 No enrichments, bare litter floor only
0 No answer/information not confirmed/ unknown practices


Beak trimming, or tipping, is the only physical alteration that is common in organic egg production. This alteration involves removing the “hook” tip of the bird’s beak and is usually done at the hatchery when the birds are chicks. Organic farmers that buy their birds from hatcheries might not have a choice as to whether their birds come to them beak tipped. Encouraged by consumer demand, the organic industry is moving away from this practice, and more organic egg producers choose unaltered birds when they are available.

Chickens use their beaks to interact with the world. Laying hens with full beaks are better able to preen themselves and forage outdoors. However, in densely stocked flocks or flocks without good outdoor access, the birds can become aggressive and can do more damage to each other when their beaks are fully intact.

100 No beak trimming/tipping allowed by any suppliers
70 Beaks trimmed/tipped prior to 10 days old
50 No policy on beak trimming or other alterations or suppliers use a variety of practices
20-40 Beak trimming and other alterations are the norm (see individual brand notes)
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Chicks and Pullets

The organic standards allow operations to source non-organic chicks if the birds are managed organically (including feed) by their second day of life. This common practice allows farmers to adapt the chicks to their new environment and production system while avoiding the cost and technical expertise required for maintaining a breeding flock to produce new layers.

Some brands purchase ready-to-lay organic pullets. These hens will not always be well adapted to their laying environment, and there may be less control over the welfare of the flock prior to its arrival on the farm.

While not common, some organic producers raise their own chicks. These farmers can fine-tune the welfare and environment of those chicks (and breeder flocks), as well as develop region-specific strains that thrive on that particular farm. These producers go above and beyond and therefore receive extra points.

125 Brand exclusively breeds and raises its own chicks, with an organic breeding flock
100 Brand raises its own pullets from chicks, which are purchased from an organic source (laid by organic breeders)
90 Brand hatches some of its chicks and purchases some (must be younger than 2 days old) from a non-organic source
80 Brand raises its own pullets from chicks, which are purchased from a non-organic outside source
60 Pullets raised by local organic farmers or in local organic pullet production where they have outdoor access
50 Purchases ready-to-lay organic pullets from an outside source with outdoor access
40 Purchases ready-to-lay organic pullets from an outside source without outdoor access
25-50 Company raises own pullets to distribute to farmers, or some other combination where suppliers may or may not have control over pullet production (see notes)
25-80 Brand does not dictate where or how suppliers source their chickens, practices vary (see notes)
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Deaths, Culls, and Spent Hens

Where do hens go when they’re no longer being used for eggs?

While hens can live up to 8 or 10 years, peak production usually occurs through their second or third year of life. Most producers cull or sell their flocks when production dips and start anew with a fresh flock. The hens that are removed from commercial production are called “spent hens.”

Many brands do not dictate what their suppliers do with spent hens. When a brand focuses on selling their spent hens live or for consumption, it is usually an indication of a higher welfare environment with healthy birds.

The brand’s death rate is also addressed by this category. Some loss is common for young chickens, but a high death rate could indicate systemic issues with hen welfare. (Scoring exceptions for anomalous events such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza and predation are noted if applicable.)

100 Cull/death rate below 3% annually (with some exceptions) and spent hens are sold live or used for human consumption
90 Cull/death rate below 5% (with some exceptions) and spent hens are sold live or used for human consumption
70 Cull/death rate above 5% (below 10%) and spent hens are used for human consumption, pet food, or other known uses (see notes)
50 Cull/death rate above 5% (below 10%) and spent hens are used for fertilizer or processed by another company for unknown use
0 Unusually high cull or death rate that cannot be attributed to reasonable circumstances
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Environmental Impacts

This scoring category considers the entire supply chain by examining the environmental impact of supplier farms. All organic egg farms grow or buy chicken feed raised without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

Brands with high quality environmental stewardship carefully handle their manure and thoughtfully maintain natural resources. Maintaining vegetation and avoiding “moonscape” (the bare ground that occurs when chickens overuse an outdoor area) is especially important to protect the local environment.

Brands that regularly perform soil and water testing, promote biodiversity, consider benefits to ecosystem services, and see their hens as part of the on-farm nutrient cycle received highest points.

100 Goes above and beyond to maintain and improve local soil, air, and water quality (see notes). Manure is recycled on-farm
90 Good environmental stewardship of the land and manure
80 Contract farmers/brand adheres to set standards for environmental stewardship; manure is composted and/or used in some form
70 Contract farmers/brand adheres to set standards for environmental stewardship; each supplier may handle manure differently
50 Suppliers have varying environmental stewardship and manure-handling practices, but some minimum benchmark is still met even if not an official brand standard
40 Suppliers have varying environmental stewardship and manure-handling practices, some of which are good while others are poor
25 Brand does not evaluate suppliers for their management of natural resources (relies solely on organic certifier) and has some questionable or unknown impacts
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Feed Sourcing

The highest points are allotted to brands that produce all hen feed on-farm, and the lowest points are given to brands that source their feed from questionable sources.

The USDA has begun to crack down on grain fraud, but concerns remain that grain and legumes fed to laying hens may come from fraudulent organic sources. Industrialized organic brands are more likely to take advantage of cheap, abundant feed by ship or rail without asking questions about its authenticity.

Unless a farmer has the advantage of growing all their own feed or contracting for every ingredient directly from another farmer and milling it themselves, the traceability of the feed supply chain can be impenetrable.

It shows enormous dedication to organic ideals to produce some or all livestock feed on-site, so those producers receive extra points.

125 All feed is produced on farm (supplements may be purchased outside)
100 Some feed is produced on-farm along with access to high quality pasture that fulfils some of the hens’ dietary needs
75 Feed is sourced from local organic growers, including neighbors and locally sourced mills
50 No feed is produced on-farm and source may not be 100% local, but birds acquire some of their dietary needs from vegetated pasture and/or brand supplies organic feed from domestic source
40 Multiple suppliers with some farms producing some or all feed, others producing no feed, with no set brand standard
25 Feed sourcing is unknown, except that it is confirmed organic
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Animal Welfare

This scoring section considers several animal welfare aspects, summarizing the brands’ overall animal welfare impact when compared to other organic brands. All organic producers provide better welfare than the most common conventional production, which raises laying hens in cramped battery cages. Among the aspects considered in this score are:

  1. Legitimacy of outdoor access
  2. Hen comfort and safety
  3. Cleanliness, including ammonia exposure and tracking indoors
  4. Support for natural and instinctive behavior in the hens
  5. Lifetime considerations such as how the chicks and pullets are raised
  6. Winter/off season housing
  7. Flock mannerisms, behaviors, and signs of stress
  8. Allowed alterations and flock molting (forced molting with the withdrawal of feed and water always results in a low welfare score).
30-100 Sliding scale based on the brand’s overall impact on their hens’ welfare
25 Brand does the bare minimum to provide for their hens’ welfare
0 No answer/information not confirmed


Brands committed to full and open disclosure to both Cornucopia’s investigators and their consumers are considered high-rated in this category. Brands must participate in Cornucopia’s survey and cooperate with other investigations, such as in-person visits, to receive full points in this category. Most producers who voluntarily participated in this study received a high score for disclosure (transparency).

100 Full and open disclosure
10-90 Depending on survey questions answered and/or availability of reliable information able to be found about the brand through investigation
0 No answer/information not confirmed

Soy free and/or gluten free? (non-scoring)

Soybean is one of the primary ingredients in poultry diets, but it causes problems in some consumers with allergies. Wheat is also a common additive in poultry diets. This information is provided so consumers with allergies can seek out eggs that are soy-free and/or gluten free.

NA Yes (soy free eggs) or no (hens are fed soy)

Organic Certifier (non-scoring)

This non-scoring section is provided for information only.

NA Accredited Organic certifiers can be found in the NOP website.

Extra Credit

Chick maceration: Consumers are rightly concerned about the animal welfare implications of male chicks being destroyed because they have no value in the egg industry. Organic producers that buy their chicks from hatcheries have little choice but to participate in this system, but many have expressed that they would like to see the industry move away from the practice. The producers who opt out of chick maceration often must jump through hoops and have added expenses, which we take into account with extra credit points.

Synthetic methionine: The main supplement of concern in poultry diets is synthetic DL Methionine. Methionine is an essential nutrient for poultry, meaning they must have it in their diet or they will become ill. The National List allows only a certain amount of synthetic methionine in poultry diets, meaning no more than 2 pounds per ton of DL Methionine is used in any organic feed ration. Some organic farmers avoid using this synthetic nutrient entirely by providing their birds with methionine from a natural food source through novel feedstuff.

Points vary depending on extra credit.
25 Brand does not macerate male chicks or purchase from breeders who macerate male chicks (confirmed)
25 Feed is from a confirmed local (within 100 miles) or on-farm source (must show receipts)
25 Laying hens live out their natural lifespan on-farm, or some other innovative welfare benefit (see notes)
25 Farm does not feed any synthetic DL methionine in the ration, but uses some other natural novel source to supply the hens with their nutrient needs (see notes)