A class-action lawsuit was filed against Walmart earlier this month, with plaintiffs alleging that the company misled shoppers in the marketing of its store brand organic cage-free eggs. The plaintiffs allege that while Walmart marketed the eggs as being laid by hens with access to the outdoors, in reality, the hens were confined to enclosed, screened structures.
Organic Marketside, Walmart's store-brand organic cage-free eggs, are produced by Cal-Maine Foods, which accounts for about a quarter of eggs consumed in the U.S. Feedstuffs reports that attorneys’ investigation of one Cal-Maine farm found that less than one percent of the 400,000 bird flock was even able to see the outdoors.
Organic Marketside eggs are sold for $3.97 a dozen, as compared to Marketside eggs, which retail for only $2.98 a dozen and do not purport to be laid by hens with access to the outdoors.
“Consumers paying more for these eggs have been deceived,” the lawsuit said. “The theoretical ability to view the outdoors is not the same as having access to it.”
While this may be misleading to consumers, in reality, access to enclosed but screened porches fulfills the current organic regulation requiring “year-round access for all animals to the outdoors.” New humane regulations that would have clarified this rule were struck down in December, after having been approved by the Obama Administration in its final month.
“The new rule clarified the meaning of outdoor access for poultry as ample access to areas with vegetation and soil,” reports The New Food Economy. “It also pointedly disqualified enclosed porches for organic certification.”
The suit against Walmart was filed January 8 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by Pittsburg, California resident Donnie Lee Gibson. Plaintiffs in the class-action suit seek reimbursement for consumers who paid the higher price for eggs with alleged access to the outdoors.
Walmart issued a statement in response to the accusations, noting that it is "committed to providing [its] customers the quality products they expect" and plans to respond to the allegations with the court.
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