USDA to Propose Long-Awaited Improvements to Certified Organic Label

UPDATE: May 10, 2017

In response to the Trump Administration’s second delay this year of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule, Farm Forward joins The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) to implore the USDA to implement the rules without further delay.

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule requires outdoor access for all animals, including egg-laying hens; sets indoor and outdoor space requirements for chickens; restricts physical alterations; adds transport and slaughter standards; and sets other crucial minimum standards.

This rule is critical for animals raised for food on organic farms, but it is also critical for higher-welfare organic farmers who deserve to be distinguished from large organic certified factory farms that do not follow the spirit of the law. This rule will dramatically improve the welfare of millions of farmed animals every year and will bring organic more in line with consumer expectations.

Our joint statement in full:

“The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), and Farm Forward implore the USDA to implement the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule without delay.

Our organizations join the voices of farmers, consumer and health advocates, food companies, and the National Organic Standards Board calling to finalize the outcome of the 15-year collaborative process that created what would be the first comprehensive federal standards for on-farm welfare.

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule requires outdoor access for all animals, including egg-laying hens; sets indoor and outdoor space requirements for chickens; restricts physical alterations; adds transport and slaughter standards; and sets other crucial minimum standards.

This rule is critical not only for animals but also to level the playing field for higher welfare organic producers. These farmers are competing against “faux-ganic” industrial producers who profit from the public’s desire for higher welfare animal products while raising animals in factory farms. The rule also protects consumers currently paying a premium for organic food in the belief that the label is proof of higher welfare.

The USDA needs to heed the calls of the countless farmers and groups that support this urgently needed rule and the consumers who do not want to purchase cruelty when they buy USDA Organic.”

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July 7, 2016: Yesterday Farm Forward joined a coalition of 13 other animal, environmental, and consumer protection organizations in applauding the USDA for proposing improved animal welfare requirements under the Certified Organic label.

For years Farm Forward has advocated improvements to organic requirements, and thanks to supporters like you we stopped Big Ag from derailing these important changes. Together we’ve fought hard to diminish widespread consumer confusion about the lives of animals on organic farms.

Farm Forward is pleased that the has USDA listened to consumers who respect animal welfare and that it is taking steps to align the Organic standards with our values. While the proposed standards are a step in the right direction, the new requirements fall short of addressing several key factors that affect animal welfare including genetic health and meaningful access to the outdoors. Today, the coalition submitted a joint comment that urges the USDA to go even further by requiring:

  • pain relief for certain physical alterations,
  • minimum space requirements for pigs,
  • a prohibition of manual blunt force trauma—also known as thumping—as a form of euthanasia for piglets,
  • access to vegetation with an increase in the minimum outdoor space requirements for birds, and
  • perches and better lighting for birds.

While we commend the USDA for their long-awaited efforts and believe that this proposed rule will ensure greater transparency within the Organic program, there are other leading animal welfare certifications—Animal Welfare Approved (AWA), Certified Humane (CH) and Global Animal Partnership (GAP)—that already have detailed standards addressing our range of concerns. Not all welfare certifications are created equal, and it’s important to understand what all of these different labels mean. That’s why we created BuyingPoultry, an authoritative rating system and database of poultry products, to help you learn which brands and certifications align with your values. As we advocate for greater transparency in the Certified Organic program, we can simultaneously ensure that the lives of millions of farmed animals are improved by looking for and purchasing other third-party certified animal products. Together, we can change the way America eats and farms.

You can read the coalition’s full comment here.

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