One of Germany’s biggest organic farming associations has called for its largest egg-producer member to split itself into small units so that chickens which are supposed to be kept in humane, free-range conditions actually are.
Only eggs produced at farm-type, not industrial, operations should in the future come under the Naturland organic badge, the organisation has decided, the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper reported this week.
A recent scandal which saw exposure of chickens being kept in horrible conditions but their eggs being sold as organic has prompted Naturland to demand that only companies which are like farms can be members.
Television reporters for the ARD broadcaster filmed scenes of horror at the Wiesengold Landei firm which was until then the leading producer of organic-labelled eggs – and part of which was certified as organic by Naturland.
The video filmed at a Wiesengold Landei production hall showed dead, obviously sick and dying chickens in terrible conditions in a dark hall.
Owner Heinrich Tiemann admitted the chickens had been kept in untenable conditions and promised to sack those workers responsible. The sick chickens had been slaughtered, he said.
Now Naturland said it was determined to reverse the process by which market demand for large numbers of eggs at low prices push producers into industrial style production.
From now on, it said, it would only grant its label to eggs produced on farms – meaning Tiemann will have to break up his empire and sell the pieces to individual operators in order to keep the Naturland label.
Naturland spokesman Carsten Veller said the encroaching system where investors had significant influence over practicalities had to be replaced with a more traditional scenario where independent farmers were personally responsible for the condition of their animals.
Talks between Naturland and Tiemann were continuing, while Naturland’s Veller admitted that should the huge company be split up, there would be suddenly be a large demand for independent chicken farmers. “That will be an enormous job,” he said.