USDA Acts to Clarify Living Standards for Organic Poultry

US - Organic livestock and poultry production requirements in the US are likely to be changed to ensure consistent application of regulations and aid consumer clarity, after proposed amendments by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
calendar icon 14 April 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

“The demand for organic agriculture continues to grow each year and these proposed changes will build on USDA’s efforts to support organic producers,” said AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer.

“By strengthening standards for organic livestock and poultry, we are ensuring that we meet consumer expectations and maintain the integrity of the organic seal to support the sector’s continued growth.

"This proposal sets clear standards for organic animals, providing clarity to organic operations and certifying agents, and establishing a level playing field for all producers.”

ARS said the new standards were based on recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board and years of public comment.

Major provisions include:

  • Clarifying how producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their health and wellbeing throughout life, including transport and slaughter.
  • Specifying which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production.
  • Establishing minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.

On the aims of the proposals, ARS said: "These proposals would add specificity to the animal production and handling aspects of organic production, ensuring consistency and consumer transparency, bolstering consumer confidence and strengthening the integrity and marketing potential of the USDA organic seal."

Some highlights of the proposed rule include provision of outdoor areas at least 50 per cent covered with soil, and a proposed stocking density for poultry of 3.0 – 4.5 pounds of hen per square foot of indoor space depending on housing type or 2.25 pounds per square foot for layers and 5.0 pounds for broilers in outdoor areas.

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