Vital Farms debuts ‘restorative’ eggs

Dive Brief:

  • Vital Farms has launched Restorative eggs, produced from chickens raised on pastures using regenerative agriculture practices like cover crops and perennial rotations. The eggs are available now at select Whole Foods stores nationwide.
  • The company said it is using the term “restorative” instead of “regenerative” because there is a limited amount of third-party certification options for egg producers that use regenerative techniques but do not use mobile coops, which allow the chickens to move around a pasture. These contrast with stationary coops, which are fixed in place.
  • Regenerative agriculture has increased in popularity in recent years among companies looking to improve the sustainability of their products, but the process of becoming certified can be complex for producers who want to use the label.

Dive Insight:

Vital Farms said that despite the limited options, it is still pursuing third-party regenerative certification for its newest egg product. In the meantime, it is using the “restorative” term out of a commitment to transparency.

“Restorative is a natural evolution of our purpose to improve the lives of people, animals, and the planet through food,” Liz Harroun, a project leader at Vital Farms, said in a statement. “As you’d expect from Vital Farms, we’re keeping it bullshit free by naming the carton Restorative, not Regenerative, because there are limited third-party certification options for egg farmers who follow regenerative practices but don’t use mobile coops.”

Food Dive has reached out to Vital Farms for comment on its pursuit of regenerative certification without mobile coops. 

In order to become Certified Regenerative by A Greener World, for example, animal housing operations must reduce particulate matter, which can increase the risk of disease in poultry. The Mobile Chicken House, a seller of mobile chicken coops, claims that the fixtures lower the risk of disease and allow more fresh air, sunshine and access to grass for poultry.

Other eggs have debuted on the market with the regenerative certification. These include eggs launched by New Barn Organics last year, which were certified by the Regenerative Organic Alliance as Regenerative Organic.

In its pursuit of regenerative farming, Vital Farms has partnered with consulting company Understanding Ag to transition five farms that supply its eggs to a set of tenets that promote nutrient-rich soil. These practices include keeping living roots in the soil to feed microorganisms, which then feed plants. Vital Farms also believes that raising animals on the land is beneficial to the soil, since they act as “walking composters,” dispersing seeds, suppressing pests and boosting its fertility.

The company also said that it plans to track biodiversity on the five farms each quarter to track their progress. Vital Farms, a Certified B Corp., said it works with over 275 small family farms across its entire operations.

The sustainability appeal of the Restorative eggs extends past how they are made. The home-compostable cartons are partly made with natural grasses like ryegrass fibers, a cover crop.

Beyond the Restorative eggs project, Vital Farms aims to continue implementing regenerative agriculture practices in its operations, according to Andrea Chu, the company’s director of ESG.

“We’re constantly evaluating how we can operate more sustainably since we believe we have a responsibility to lead the industry forward by implementing emerging and scalable practices that support farmers, animals, and the environment,” Chu said.