Organic Valley

Outdoor AccessConfinement/Unknown
Market AreaNationwide
LocationLa Farge, WI
Market Area DetailNationwide
Total Score1505

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 Cornucopa’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).

TOTAL (possible score is 2700) 1505
2-Egg Rating | Fair
Family farms and farmer cooperatives that market their own eggs receive the most points. Corporations that do not produce any eggs receive the fewest points.
Ownership Structure
90farmer-owned cooperative that produces all of eggs marketed
Flocks of 500 birds or fewer receive the most points based on Animal Welfare Approved standards.
Average Flock Size
60Ê5,500 bird flock
Single henhouses receive the most points.
Single or Double Henhouses
Animal Welfare Approved and Biodynamic certifications receive the most bonus points. Producers are not penalized for not having additional certifications beyond organic.
Other Certifications (bonus points)
Points determined by integrity of the brand’s organic certifier.
Organic Certifier
75Oregon Tilth
Farms that are 100% certified organic receive the most points, farms/brands that are split conventional and organic receive fewer points.
Commitment to Organics
70company only markets organic but some farms produce non-organic eggs (ex. Judy's)
More than 1.8 square feet per bird receives the most points, less than 1.2 square feet receives the fewest.
Indoor Space per Bird
801.75 sq ft/henÊ
Farms with perches, scratching areas and deep litter or year round pasture receive the most points.
Indoor Enrichments
100perches, scratching areas, litter
Farms that freshen litter weekly receive the most points.
Litter Management
60litter freshened after each flock removed
Farms that ensure birds have ample access to outdoors during daylight hours receive the most points.
Natural Light
80limited natural light inside the house
Farms that ensure 108 square feet per bird or more outdoors receive the most points.
Outdoor Space per Bird
40company requires 5 sq ft/hen except at Judy's Farm & Bushman farm (for some strange reason?)
Farms that ensure birds are in mobile housing or 1 large door per 75 birds receive the most points.
Popholes/Exit to the Outdoors
50somewhere between 1 door for every 500-3,000 hens
Farms that ensure birds have access to feed, water and shade outdoors receive the most points.
Outdoor Enrichments
0no answer
Farms that can ensure outdoor access year round or those that only confine birds during inclement weather receive the most points.
Outdoor Space Exemptions
50some are confined seasonally in winter, others confined year-round
Farms that use mobile housing rotated on pasture every 1-2 days or weekly receive the most points.
Outdoor Management System
30fixed housing with non-rotated outdoor space, porches, or no outdoor space at all (Bushmans)
Farms that recycle chicken manure on the farm, using it for fertilizer, without causing nutrient pollution, receive the most points.
Manure Handling System
50no answer
Farms that never force molting receive the most points.
Forced Molting
100no forced molting
Farms that never trim or tip beaks receive the most points.
Beak Trimming
70beaks trimmed in first 10 days of life
Farms where hens live an average of 3+ years or 1.6-3 years receive the most points.
Laying Hen Lifespan
40laying hens live less than 1.5 years
Farms where spent hens die a natural death, are sold for meat, or are processed and sold for human consumption, receive the most points.
Use of Spent Hens
30some sold live, some composted, some sold for pet food
Farms where the death loss rate of hens is less than 3% annually receive the most points.
Death Loss Rate
80probably 5%
Farms that breed and incubate their own chicks, or raise their own pullets, receive the most points.
40most farmers purchase ready-to-lay pullets from outside sources
Farms that allow pullets access to the outdoors within the first 6 weeks of life, or within 6-10 weeks, receive the most points.
Pullet Access to Outdoors
4018 weeks of age
Farms where all feed is produced on the farm receive the most points.
Feed Produced on Farm
50some farmers grow their own feed, others do not
Farms where 100% of the feed is grown in the US or Canada receive the most points.
US Grown Feed
40some feed ingredients grown/milled outside of US
No points are given for this but the information may be useful to certain consumers looking to avoid soy.
Soy in Feed
Yessoy in feed ration
Farms that do not feed synthetic amino acids receive the most points.
Synthetic Amino Acids
70No more than 2 lbs per ton
Farms that participated in Cornucopia’s research providing full transparency receive the most points.
Disclosure Rate
10refused to fill out survey, some transparency on website