International Egg and Poultry Review

US - By the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). This is a weekly report looking at international developments concerning the poultry industry. This week's report focuses on the poultry situation in the EU's organic production standards.
calendar icon 4 February 2009
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European Union Organic Production Standards

New EU legislation on organic standards came into force on 1 January 2009. The organic standards are set out in EC No. 834/2007 for organic production and labeling of organic products. EC No. 889/2008 lays down detailed rules for the implementation of EC No. 834/2007 for organic production labeling and control. Organic food production has been strictly regulated since 1993, when EC Council Regulation 2092/12 became effective.

The regulation lays down the minimum surface for indoor and outdoor areas, characteristics of housing for different species and categories of animals, and requirements that specific behavioral needs of animals are met. In general, the rules emphasize the importance of using breeds and strains of livestock appropriate to organic systems and the location of the holding, of using management practices as the primary support for animal health and welfare, and the need for production methods to be in harmony with the local environment.

The Regulation states that organic husbandry practices should prevent poultry from being reared too quickly. Poultry must either be reared until they reach a minimum age or come from slow-growing poultry strains. This is to prevent the use of intensive rearing methods. A minimum age for slaughter is set if slow-growing strains are not used and are: 81 days for chickens; 150 days for capons; 49 days for Peking ducks; 70 days for male Muscovy ducks; 92 days for Mallard ducks; 94 days for guinea fowl; 140 days for male turkeys and roasting geese; and 100 days for female turkeys.

Poultry are not allowed to be kept in cages and water fowl must have access to stream pond, lake or a pool. Housing requirements include at least one third of the floor area be solid (not slatted or of a grid construction) and covered with a litter material, and that poultry should have sufficient perches of appropriate size commensurate with the size of the group.

Poultry stocking density cannot exceed the limit of 170 kg of nitrogen per hectare of agricultural area. The maximum number of birds per hectare is 580 for table chickens and 230 for laying hens. For the outdoors area available in rotation per head per square meter (m2) there is a limit or 4 for laying hens, broilers and guinea fowl, 4.5 for ducks, 10 for turkey and 15 for geese. A square meter is about 10.76 square feet.

Indoors area requirements for laying hens is 6 per m2 with 18 cm of perch per hen and no more than 7 hens per nest, or in case of common nest, 120 cm2/bird. Poultry for fattening (in fixed housing) requirements are 10 birds (maximum live weight of 21 kg/m2) per m2 (and 20 cm perch per bird for guinea fowl only).

Each poultry house shall not contain more than 4,800 chickens; 3,000 laying hens; 5,200 guinea fowl; 4,000 female Muscovy or Peking ducks or 3,200 male Muscovy or Peking ducks or other ducks; 2,500 capons, geese or turkeys. The maximum usable area of poultry houses for meat production on any single unit is 1,600 square meters (about 17,223 square feet) and all birds must have easy access to an open air area. Provisions are made for when poultry must be kept indoors due to restrictions or obligations imposed on the basis of Community legislation. Birds may be provided a maximum of 16 hours of light per day, as long as they have a continuous nocturnal rest period without artificial light of at least eight hours.

Under catastrophic circumstances, on a temporary basis, the competent authority may authorize the limited use of non-organic feed of agricultural origin where farmers are unable to obtain feed exclusively from organic production, and in the case of high mortality of animals caused by health or catastrophic circumstances, the renewal or reconstitution of the herd or flock with non-organic animals when organically reared animals are not available.

Where farmers are unable to obtain feed exclusively from organic production, the use of a limited proportion of nonorganic feed of plant and animal origin is allowed. The maximum percentage of nonorganic feed authorized per period of 12 months for species other than herbivores shall be 10 per cent during the period from 1 January 2009 to 31 December 2009; and 5 per cent during the period from 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2011.

The figures shall be calculated annually as a percentage of the dry matter of feed from agricultural origin. The maximum percentage authorized of non-organic feed in the daily ration shall be 25 per cent calculated as a percentage of the dry matter. The operator shall keep documentary evidence of the need for the use of this provision.

With prior authorization of the competent authority a limited use of non-organic animals may be brought onto an organic farm under certain conditions. When a flock is constituted for the first time, renewed or reconstituted and organically reared poultry are not available in sufficient numbers, non-organically reared poultry may be brought into an organic poultry production unit, provided that the pullets for the production of eggs and poultry for meat production are less than three days old.

When organically reared pullets are not available, non-organically reared pullets for egg production of not more than 18 weeks may be brought into an organic livestock unit (with prior authorization) until 31 December 2011.

Non-organic poultry for meat production may be brought in before they are three days old and then must be raised under organic production rules for at least 10 weeks. The length of time for poultry for egg production is six weeks.

There are seven countries on the EU’s equivalency list: Argentina, Australia, Costa Rico, India, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland. For other third countries the Commission will compile a list of control bodies and control authorities. Only complete requests received before 31 October 2011 will be considered.
Source: Official Journal of the European Union, UK Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; Foreign Agricultural Service US Mission to the European Union;

Further Reading

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