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Can I Claim my Chicken Eggs are Organic?



The decision to feed organic chicken feed instead of conventional is a personal one. 

Your chickens will live long healthy lives, lay you delicious fresh eggs, eat their weight in bugs, and provide you more manure than you need - regardless of whether they are fed organic feed or not.

Both types of feed provide a flock the same nutritional value (assuming both brands contain the same ingredients).

But for a bag of chicken feed to be labeled "organic", all the ingredients contained in the feed must be grown and manufactured according to the National Organic Program standards and requirements.




What is Organic Chicken Feed?


Organic feed can be in a pellet form, a crumble, or a mix of whole/cracked grains, but must be entirely comprised of organically grown and produced ingredients. 

These organic crops cannot be fertilized with chemical fertilizers, treated with insecticides, fungicides or pesticides and cannot be genetically modified (i.e. must be non-GMO). 

Organic feed products cannot contain chemical preservatives, medications, hormones or animal by-products.

Organic feeds are generally certified by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and carry the certified organic seal or logo.

Because organic feed requires federal certification and inspection which comes at a cost, organic feed will carry a higher price tag than non-organic. 

But for many, the decision to feed organic feed to their chickens is what's most important, price notwithstanding.

Can I Claim my Chicken Eggs are Organic?


If you choose to feed your chickens organic feed because you want to limit the toxins and other non-natural ingredients as much as possible in the food your family eats - and the food your food eats - then organic is a no-brainer for you.

But if you're choosing organic feed because you plan on selling your fresh eggs as "organic", you might want to think again.

Raising chickens organically involves a bit more than just feeding them organic feed.

In some states like Maine and California, if you are selling less than $5,000 worth of organic product and following all the organic regulations pertaining to chickens and eggs, you may label your products as organic without being certified (check your specific state to see if this applies to you as well.)

This allows you to use the term 'organic' on your egg carton label, but you cannot use the USDA Organic seal.


So what ARE the Requirements for Raising an Organic Flock?

In order to label your eggs are "organic", you must follow the organic guidelines for chicken flocks.

The links to read about the guidelines in more detail appear at the bottom of this article, but the broad, underlying tenets include:


Getting Started
  • From the second day of life (for all intents and purposes the day you receive your chicks from the hatchery or breeder), any chickens you claim are being raising organically must be under continuous organic management
  • If you purchase pullets (started birds) or adult birds, they must be purchased from another organic facility. They can not be transitioned from non-certified organic and then integrated into your organic property and considered organic
  • You must be able to identify individual birds (or flocks if you keep several separate flocks) by using leg bands or raising different breeds that are easily identifiable

Feed Requirements
  • All feeds and grains fed to your flock must be certified organic
  • All kitchen scraps and food waste must also be certified organic
  • All forage must be certified organic, meaning that any lawn, field or other forage areas your chickens have access to must not have had any prohibited fertilizers or pesticides used on it for the past three years
  • All garden crops, whether sprouted or started from seedlings, offered to an organic flock must have been grown from certified organic seeds
  • No animal or poultry by-products can be fed
  • Obviously any treats fed must also be certified organic
*Interestingly, mineral/vitamin and other nutritional feed supplements (other than sea kelp) don't need to be organic, as long as they are only provided in the amounts needed to maintain the health of the chickens.





Living Conditions


  • Conditions must promote the health and natural behavior of the chickens and include light, ventilation and clean, dry bedding
  • Agriculturally produced bedding must be certified organic (hay, straw, etc.)
  • Chickens must have year-round access to outdoor areas appropriate for the environment that offer fresh air, sunlight and clean water, and include room to exercise
  • Temporary confinement is okay in limited situations to include molting or broodiness/raising chicks

Health Care


  • Preventives should be considered first to include quality feed, supplements and probiotics, as well as a clean spacious environment
  • Vaccinations are considered preventative and are permitted in an organic flock
*In a life-threatening emergency or when preventives aren't working, then antibiotics or other medications should be used. However, that chicken will need to be removed from the organic flock permanently. 


Record Keeping


  • Maintaining an organic flock requires keeping fastidious records including egg production records, feed receipts, and individual flock member records

As you can see, even without the federal certification requirement, establishing and maintaining an organic flock and therefore ensuring organic eggs requires a bit of commitment and effort.

In order to not fall on the wrong side of the law, maybe a better route than claiming your eggs are "organic" would be to label your eggs as such: "Fresh eggs laid by chickens fed organic feed".

As an aside and sort of related, the USDA requires that in order to use the term "free range", your chickens must have regular access to grass (I'm pretty sure that we all satisfy that requirement), but to use the terms "Certified Humane", "American Humane Certified" or "Animal Welfare Approved" you must have official certification from those respective organizations.

The terms "natural", "hormone free" (hormones have been outlawed for years!) and "cage free" are not regulated and may be used on your egg cartons.

However, take care when using these terms: “fresh eggs,” ”strictly fresh eggs,” “farm fresh eggs,” or “local eggs” and research the Egg Laws in your state before using them on your cartons.

There can be restrictions - for example "fresh eggs" must be less than 30 days old when being offered for sale in Maine, and all the terms require the eggs are at least Grade A.

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