Chicken Abuse Scandal Leads Germany to Redefine Organic Animal Products


The sanctity of the U.S. certified organic label has come under scrutiny recently as the USDA has approved the use of non-organic additives in organic foods and allows massive CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) to receive organic certification. In Germany, however, eggs now must be produced in non-industrial settings to receive organic certification after a recent egg scandal.

According to a story in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper, a large-scale certified organic industrial chicken farm was caught keeping birds in unsanitary and unethical conditions. The discovery prompted the country’s Naturland organic certifier to demand that the organic certification only apply to the more bucolic definition of farm animals.

Wiesengold Landei is Germany’s largest producer of organic eggs, certified by Naturland. Footage obtained from its facility showed dead, sick and dying chickens living in filthy conditions in a large, dark area, before being slaughtered. Wiesengold Landei’s owner acknowledged the atrocity, blaming employees who he said would lose their jobs.

Naturland responded to the footage by saying it will only give its organic certification to eggs produced on actual farms, such as small independent and family operations where farmers had daily interactions with each of their animals. As it stands, Wiesengold Landei would lose its certification unless it broke up the industrial setting and worked with smaller operations.

Big agricultural settings are also common in organic animal farming in the U.S., with companies such as Horizon and its supplier, Aurora Dairy, criticized for housing thousands of cows together in industrial settings. They’ve been caught violating organic regulations at least 14 times.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Image: lehcar1477

Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.