Vital Farms was recognized for ranking 3rd place on investment firm Big Path Capital’s 2023 MO 100 Top Impact CEO Ranking.
According to Big Path, the ranking highlights 100 CEOs who are championing a “new vision for capitalism” and showing that every transaction represents an opportunity to create positive outcomes for its stakeholders.
After announcing its third-place ranking on the list, the egg producer published its fourth quarter and fiscal year 2022 financial results the next day, which states that its fourth quarter net revenue hit a record of $110.1 million and it expects a net revenue of over $450 million in fiscal year 2023.
It’s well known that the U.S. egg industry has been unstable for the last 12 months. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) caused the depopulation of over 43 million table egg layers in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).
This caused egg prices to remain at elevated levels for the majority of the year. Three months into 2023, egg prices are starting to come down slowly as producers are repopulating the flocks they lost. Additionally, the increase in conventional egg prices positively impacted the demand for specialty eggs, such as pasture-raised eggs.
It’s no secret that Vital Farms’ marketing is focused on why it is more sustainable or ethical than other egg companies. Vital Farms’ recent pasture-raised campaign, which I covered in a previous blog post, attempts to call out misleading claims from other, cage-free companies.
Industry experts have said that one of the main problems with pasture-raised hens is the variability in environment, which can put a bird’s welfare at risk. When working with pasture-raised poultry, the inconsistency in a bird’s living conditions can make it difficult for producers to adhere to strict biosecurity measures, which has been a major topic of focus with HPAI going around.
In 2022, Vital Farms announced it moved its hens inside to protect them from contracting HPAI from wild birds. As of now, it hasn’t said if or when it will be moving its birds back outside.
Claiming a “new vision of capitalism” and encouraging people to buy stock, but using extensive amounts of marketing to paint a different picture, feels unethical. On a side note, what would really make Vital Farms sustainable is if it announced a long-term biosecurity plan of how it is preventing wild birds from spreading HPAI to its pasture-raised birds.