Keeping Organic Strong: Changes in organic regulations and farming practices
Fall 2011 NOSB Livestock Recommendations
Over the past several years, the Livestock Committee has engaged in an extensive dialogue with organic community stakeholders to develop clearer and more enforceable poultry production standards. A very wide variety of poultry production operations are certified under the current standards which many organic advocates maintain are too vague to meaningfully differentiate between organic and industrial systems. The key issues within the animal welfare considerations include how much space to require per bird both within the poultry house and outdoors, when and how to provide birds access to the outdoors and what environmental conditions must be maintained when birds are outdoors. Currently certified operations range between near continuous confinement systems housing upwards of 100,000 hens to houses with 10,000 – 15,000 birds and seasonal access to adjacent fields to chicken tractors that move 100 birds to new grass every day.
The Livestock Committee also included in its animal welfare recommendation detailed standards for organic pork production. As with the poultry recommendations, these standards strengthen the connection between raising pork and providing meaningful access to an outdoor environment suitable to the animals’ welfare and natural behavior. The recommendation requires that pork receive access to pasture with a minimum of 25% vegetative cover during the grazing season while acknowledging that swine need to root as well. The Livestock Committee brought a second recommendation to the NOSB entitled Animal Handling and Transport to Slaughter. This recommendation contains detailed, species-specific requirements addressing when and how livestock may be transported (for example, sick animals must not be moved) to safeguard animal welfare and how to protect organic integrity during such processes.
The NOSB unanimously adopted the both the Animal Welfare and Stocking Rates and animal Handling and Transport to Slaughter recommendations. While the Livestock Committee will continue to work on guidance documents related to these recommendations, the focus for upgrading organic livestock production standards now shifts to the NOP which must draw upon the NOSB’s work in implementing new rulemaking procedures.
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