Cornucopia Institute Home Page
View Scorecard Criteria
Back to Ratings
Brand Name Organic Valley
Rating (2)    
Company by CROPP
Location La Farge, WI
Market Area Nationwide
Web Site

Two-egg brands are generally larger vertically integrated operations and/or they purchase eggs from multiple farmers (or work with farmers on a contract basis supplying the chickens, feed and management oversight). Based on our analysis a number of them do not appear to meet the minimum USDA standards for legal outdoor access (although compliance might vary and you should look at the narrative regarding the brand). All these brands lose credit for not being fully transparent with Cornucopia researchers, and indirectly their organic community customers (Note: please see score on disclosure rate below – the score on this question also relates to their willingness to have their farms open to our inspection and/or supply required photographs of all four sides of each chicken coop producing their eggs).

Note from Cornucopia: 

Organic Valley received a limited number of points in terms of its approach to transparency. Due to some past ethical lapses by management, discovered and publicized by The Cornucopia Institute, the company was not willing to participate in this study. Since it very well could represent the largest name brand in the industry, it was important for us to do additional research in preparing this report so that Organic Valley could be included. Organic Valley is a farmer-owned cooperative that primarily produces dairy products. It is highly rated in our organic dairy study but has lost points in recent years due to its unwillingness to continue releasing information.

In 2008, Cornucopia discovered that although Organic Valley maintains high standards for its family-scale farmers, who produce the lion share of the cooperative’s organic milk, it had, for well over a year, been purchasing from a 7,200-cow factory farm in Texas. The industrial dairy in Texas, that has now grown to approximately 9000 cows, appears to have violated a number of fundamental standards that the co-op stated were in force for all their dairy producers.

It was announced that purchases from this dairy were quickly discontinued after Cornucopia brought its concerns to the farmers who own and oversee the cooperative.

Subsequently, when we published Cornucopia’s organic soy scorecard, we were forced to deal directly with Organic Valley’s farmers producing soybeans to obtain detailed information about its operation. Organic Valley once again received a high rating.

Without management’s cooperation, the farmers stepped in themselves. If the individual farmers hadn’t stepped up, the cooperative’s brand, that they own, could have had its reputation irreparably injured.

A similar dynamic took place in our current research on organic eggs. It has been the farmers who have been open about their management and production practices and have shared the standards that the cooperative uses to manage production.

We did discover, however, that one of Organic Valley’s “members” supplying organic eggs is actually an industrial-scale farm in Northern California that grants no outdoor access to the laying hens. The operation, described in Organic Valley literature as "Stephen Judy's Egg Farm" is in fact Petaluma Farms a large, vertically-integrated agricultural enterprise based in Petaluma, California. Scores given to Organic Valley on this scorecard therefore factor in the cooperative’s high standards, for their family-scale members, and the fact that it also markets eggs from hens with no outdoor access, as well as the unfortunate reality that its management has attempted to mislead its customers, and even their farmer-members (with rhetoric on its website and packaging) and has refused to be open and transparent about its practices, unlike so many of its competitors.

We encourage loyal Organic Valley consumers to contact the company and encourage it to fully share with our researchers details about how its eggs are produced. We would be pleased to raise its ratings if we receive the same cooperation as was offered by the other companies listed on the scorecard (and the same level of cooperation that Organic Valley management offered when Cornucopia published its first scorecard rating organic dairy brands).

Criteria Points Comments
Ownership Structure 90 farmer-owned cooperative that produces all of eggs marketed
Average Flock Size 60  5,500 bird flock
Single or Double Henhouses 100 single
Other Certifications (bonus points) none
Organic Certifier 75 Oregon Tilth
Commitment to Organics 70 company only markets organic but some farms produce non-organic eggs (ex. Judy's)
Indoor Space per Bird 80 1.75 sq ft/hen 
Indoor Enrichments 100 perches, scratching areas, litter
Litter Management 60 litter freshened after each flock removed
Natural Light 80 limited natural light inside the house
Outdoor Space per Bird 40 company requires 5 sq ft/hen except at Judy's Farm & Bushman farm (for some strange reason?)
Popholes/Exit to the Outdoors 50 somewhere between 1 door for every 500-3,000 hens
Outdoor Enrichments 0 no answer
Outdoor Space Exemptions 50 some are confined seasonally in winter, others confined year-round
Outdoor Management System 30 fixed housing with non-rotated outdoor space, porches, or no outdoor space at all (Bushmans)
Manure Handling System 50 no answer
Forced Molting 100 no forced molting
Beak Trimming 70 beaks trimmed in first 10 days of life
Laying Hen Lifespan 40 laying hens live less than 1.5 years
Use of Spent Hens 30 some sold live, some composted, some sold for pet food
Death Loss Rate 80 probably 5%
Pullets 40 most farmers purchase ready-to-lay pullets from outside sources
Pullet Access to Outdoors 40 18 weeks of age
Feed Produced on Farm 50 some farmers grow their own feed, others do not
US Grown Feed 40 some feed ingredients grown/milled outside of US
Soy in Feed Yes soy in feed ration
Synthetic Amino Acids 70 No more than 2 lbs per ton
Disclosure Rate 10 refused to fill out survey, some transparency on website
TOTAL (possible score is 2700) 1505