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Walmart Organic Egg Hens and “Outdoor Access” Class Action

Nest Fresh Farm Brown Hens

What does it mean when an egg producer says that its eggs come from chickens “with outdoor access”? The complaint for this class action claims that a small, screened-in porch with limited access points does not qualify as “outdoors.”

The class for this action is all residents of Washington who bought Organic Marketside eggs from a Walmart, supplied by a porch-based industrial egg farm, including but not limited to Nest Fresh’s porch-based industrial egg farm in Canby, Oregon.

Walmart sells shell eggs to consumers under its Organic Marketside private label. Each of the cartons bears a USDA plant number identifying where the eggs came from. According to the complaint, the number P-1266 indicates a Nest Fresh certified-organic egg processor in Canby, Oregon, located directly next to a Nest Fresh facility where hens lay the eggs.

The complaint includes a photo of the packaging, which claims that the eggs are “farm fresh” and come from hens “free to roam, nest and perch in a protected barn with outdoor access.”

However, the complaint claims that the hens are actually confined to industrial barns and do not have outdoor access. The complaint shows a photo of an “organic hen house” from the Nest Fresh website that shows a long, low facility next to a dirt lot. The lot does not contain any hens. In fact, the complaint claims that the only “outdoors” that hens are allowed to access is a long, roofed, screened-in porch that runs along the side of the hen house.

According to the complaint, the porches are completely enclosed and can only hold a fraction of the house’s chicken population. Also, it claims, the porches are accessible only through a limited number of “popholes” and few of the thousands of confined hens use them. The complaint says that this is because chickens do not like to aggressively encroach on each other’s space, so they cannot make their way through, or fly over, the many other chickens between themselves and the few popholes. Most stay in the dimly-lit barns.

The complaint claims that this is not real “outdoor access.” By contrast, it shows a photo of another farm with hens wandering in a sunny, grassy area beside a hen house.

Why is this important? The complaint claims that true outdoor access lowers stress on hens, strengthens their immune systems, and reduces illness. It also allows normal chicken behavior and improves the welfare of the hens. If the eggs are healthier and the chickens happier, consumers are willing to pay more.

Claiming that the Nest Fresh eggs come from chickens “with outdoor access” is a violation of state consumer protection laws, the complaint says, and it alleges that the company has unjustly enriched itself.

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