The USDA's organic livestock standards talk most about what goes into the animal and least about the conditions they are raised in. But last month, the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board proposed new guidelines for organic meat and poultry production that would provide a higher standard of animal welfare. Some of the changes include:
- tougher rules on handling and transport;
- strengthening the mandate that animals have access to the outdoors
- minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements
- new standards on how densely poultry can be stocked
- an end to tail docking and de-beaking.
“This will support the continued growth in the organic livestock and poultry sectors, and ensure consumer confidence in the organic label,” Miles McEvoy, who heads USDA's organic program, told the Associated Press
Current organic livestock and pasture requirements state that all livestock are:
- Managed organically from the last third of gestation (mammals) or second day of life (poultry).
- Allowed year-round access to the outdoors except under specific conditions (e.g., inclement weather).
- Raised on certified organic land meeting all organic crop production standards.
- Raised per animal health and welfare standards
- Organic ruminant livestock—such as cattle, sheep, and goats—must have free access to certified organic pasture for the entire grazing season. This period is specific to the farm’s geographic climate and ranges from 120 - 365 days.