As the demand for organic products continues to grow at a record pace, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is proposing changes to ensure the consistent application of USDA regulations for organic livestock and poultry operations. The proposed changes are based on recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board; they incorporate years of public comment and stakeholder suggestions.

“The demand for organic agriculture continues to grow each year, and these proposed changes will build on USDA’s efforts to support organic producers,” says Elanor Starmer, AMS administrator. “By strengthening standards for organic livestock and poultry, we are ensuring 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.”

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 of animals are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production.

-Establishing minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.

Natural and organic meat processor Applegate voiced its support of the proposed rule that would address animal health care practices and living conditions, like prohibiting physical alterations such as the debeaking of chickens and tail docking of hogs.

“Consumer confusion surrounding the labeling of organic meat and poultry and what this labeling means for animal welfare is prevalent,” says Steve Lykken, Applegate president. “With this long-awaited step in the right direction, the USDA will bring consumers’ expectations much closer to reality.”

The proposed rule will be published soon in the Federal Register. It can be viewed here.