Minimum Space Rules Set to Ensure US Organic Livestock Welfare

US - New rules have been announced in Washington that clarify production requirements for organic meat and poultry, which lawmakers hope will align the rules more closely with what customers already expect from organic production.
calendar icon 20 January 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

The new rules, announced by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), aims to ensure that all organic animals live in pasture-based systems utilising production practices that support their well-being and natural behaviour.

“During this Administration, USDA’s support for the organic sector has grown along with the demand for organically produced products,” said AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer.

“To build on this support, it has been a top priority to strengthen standards for organic livestock and poultry, ensuring that we meet consumer expectations and maintain the integrity of the USDA organic seal. This rule is also about fairness for organic producers - it ensures that everyone competes on a level field and plays by the same rules.”

Major provisions of the rule include:

  • Clarifying how producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their health and well-being 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.

Commenting on the announcement, The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) farm animal programme director, Dena Jones, said: "This is a historic moment, as there are currently no substantive federal standards for the raising of farm animals under the law. The final rule reduces inconsistencies in the animal care provided by organic producers, and helps farmers who raise their animals in accordance with higher welfare standards. Such farmers—whose practices are more in line with consumer expectations for organic products—are currently at a competitive disadvantage to industrial operators who cut corners and treat their animals poorly."

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