Lawsuit Filed Against Walmart for Claiming “Cage-Free” Eggs

The labeling of eggs has become a major controversy.

16:9clue on Flickr

A lawsuit has been filed in a California district court against two of the biggest companies in the country: Walmart and Cal-Maine Foods. The lawsuit claims that Walmart and Cal-Maine—the latter is one of the biggest egg producers in the US—lied to customers about the treatment of hens whose eggs were sold at Walmart. The alleged lie? The packaging claimed "outdoor access," yet the birds are not permitted to go outside.

The background of this lawsuit: the original organic legislation is decades old, and in the later years of the Obama administration, lawmakers attempted to close some of its loopholes. One of those was “access to the outdoors.” Actual access to the outdoors, with dirt and grass and stuff, is expensive to set up and maintain, so some big egg producers instead opt for the bare minimum that gets them the certification to sell eggs at that precious organic premium. In many cases, that means a setup like a room with walls, a ceiling, and a concrete floor that happens to have screened windows counts.

The Trump administration last month hurled that legislation in the garbage, which has angered organic growers and activists who see screened-in porches as a misleading perversion of what consumers think organics really are. Walmart previously announced that it plans to sell only cage-free eggs by 2025, but if those eggs are only cage-free in this legal sense, is that really much of an achievement?

This lawsuit feels more like a protest than an actionable attack; it’s not at all clear that Cal-Maine’s “outdoor access” is illegal, despite being ridiculous according to common sense. What is clear is that consumers have expectations for the words “organic” and “outdoor access,” and this lawsuit is an example of their standing up and saying so.

Lawsuit Filed Against Walmart for Claiming “Cage-Free” Eggs