Dear Valued Customers of Sacramento Co-op and Judy‘s Family Farm:
We would like to take a moment to respond to the controversy surrounding some of our egg cartons. As you may know, an Animal Legal Defense Fund member is suing us, claiming that we have misled consumers into thinking our eggs were produced in open pastures because our carton depicts a boy and girl on the carton interacting with a hen and some of her chicks. The boy and girl were drawn in an outdoor setting, so their claim is that we are somehow telling our customers that all of our hens are raised outdoors.
The cover on our organic egg carton is an artist’s interpretation of us growing up on poultry farms. Neither one of us knew each other then, but we had similar experiences. Judy’s mother used to make her clothes and she got a new Easter bonnet each year when she was a child. Steve wore Lederhosen bib shorts which reflects his upbringing in an immigrant German household. Growing up on a family poultry farm was instrumental in developing and maintaining the values our families instilled in us and that was the inspiration for the boy and girl on the lid.
The inside of the carton also says that our hens are free to scratch, roam and play in wide open spaces. Steve wrote this when we created the carton in 1996. Steve is a farmer, not a technical writer, and he was making the comparison between caged birds and our cage free hens, since he was one of the first to actively produce and promote what was then a radically different way of producing eggs in an industry dominated by large caged operations.
Our barns provide plenty of space for our hens to indulge in their natural instincts of roaming, scratching and dust bathing, and the curtained sides of the houses provide natural light and ventilation that takes advantage of the long days and cool summer breezes of coastal Sonoma and Marin counties.
At the time we created the carton, the organic standard was all about the quality and cleanliness of the food. Food without additives, pesticides, herbicides or antibiotics was what organic meant, and we filled that niche by producing California’s first certified organic egg. In 1996, people didn’t want or expect their eggs to be pastured, so there would have been no commercial advantage for my husband to imply otherwise.
Nowhere on our carton does it state that our hens are “free range” or pastured, yet this lawsuit claims that all of our customers have been duped into thinking that the eggs were produced outdoors and wouldn’t have purchased them otherwise. We wholeheartedly disagree. We believe our customers are more intelligent than that, and that our customers purchased our eggs because they wanted an alternative to eggs from caged hens raised with antibiotics and pesticide/herbicides grown grains. In fact, by supporting our organic farm you have kept thousands of pounds of chemicals out of the environment.
We are proud of the innovations that we have made over the years in providing for the health and welfare of our hens. The FDA and USDA are currently discussing appropriate monitoring protocols to implement in order to ensure a salmonella-free egg when putting hens in an outdoor or pastured environment. While we wait for these monitoring protocols to be determined, we have been hard at work for the last two years exploring possible techniques to safely and sustainably raise pastured hens. Ironically, as you can see, we were working on pastured eggs long before his lawsuit was filed against us. Despite these inaccurate claims about our egg cartons, we will continue to innovate and provide Northern California families with the best quality eggs at affordable prices.
ALDF has said and implied terrible things about our farm and how we treat our hens, none of which are true. The fact is that we care for our hens as only third generation family farmers can. We strongly believe our customers are intelligent enough to understand the statements on our egg cartons, and to appreciate the cage free environment in which we house our hens and the wholesome and nutritious eggs produced on our farm.
To all the people who like and want to buy cage free organic eggs, buy ours and judge for yourselves whether our eggs are a good alternative to eggs from caged hens.
Judy and Steve