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Best-laid plans to give chickens room to run are shelved with USDA organics rule

Best-laid plans to give chickens room to run are shelved with USDA organics rule

Strolling through a flock of free-roaming rust-colored hens, Christopher Nichols admits that no one truly knows whether his chickens are happier because they can strut around and wander outside.

But consumers are happier, and that matters a lot to the third-generation egg farmer and a slew of other egg producers who charge a premium price for eggs bearing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ​​​organic certification, which governs not only what hens eat, but nearly everything about how they live their lives.

“The consumers have an idea of what this sort of operation looks like,” Nichols said, raising his voice above the chorus of clucks emanating from more than 7,000 Rhode...

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