Matt O’Hayer, CEO of Vital Farms, just returned from Savannah, GA, where the National Organic Standards Board voted unanimously to require 2 square feet of outdoor space, with at least 50% vegetative cover, for laying hens. In addition, they increased the inside space requirement to 2 sq ft (up from 1.2 sq ft.). This was a hard fought battle for abysmal spacing, but a huge increase from no legal requirement for outdoor access for organic hens, as was the case.
Before this becomes law, it must get the approval of the National Organic Program which is under the auspices of the Secretary of Agriculture. Along the way, various government entities such as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must bless these rules. It is at the OMB that we expect the big factory organic egg farms, which oppose any outdoor access by hens, to work their lobbying magic and get this overturned. They have invested heavily in massive aviary cage complexes which will be hard to utilize under the new rules and they will claim financial hardship if they can’t continue to keep their birds inside these glorified cages.