The National Organic Standards Board voted last Friday to recommend the immediate enactment of higher animal welfare standards for organic meat and poultry. This enactment is projected to take effect on May 19.
The NOSB, which provides recommendations to the USDA for the organic label, voted unanimously in favor of the new regulations.
The standards, called the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices, were developed and finalized in January. Their implementation has already been delayed once, following the change of presidential administration; the regulations were first intended to be enacted in March.
The rules require that animals be able to exhibit natural behaviors including sitting, walking, and stretching. The regulations also include provisions for livestock handling and transport for slaughter, and they clarify the definition of outdoor access for livestock, specifically egg-laying hens.
The increased amount of land required for egg producers to comply with the outdoor access rule specifically led the USDA to build in a five-year timeline for producers to meet this standard; other standards must be met within one year of the publication of the final rule to maintain organic certification.
While most organic egg producers and brands already meet these requirements, and nearly three-quarters of brands surveyed by the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare have a formal animal welfare policy in place, the National Pork Producers Council has communicated its intentions to repeal the regulations, and nearly 66 percent of companies have not implemented a strong system for monitoring animal welfare.
“A small handful of ‘faux-ganic’ producers raise animals under the USDA Organic label in factory-farm-like conditions,” explains the ASPCA, noting that it “strongly applauds” this vote, calling it “a huge step for the NOSB.”
Eighty-six percent of people who buy organic food support these improved welfare standards, according to a new Consumer Reports survey.
NOSB proposals for these standards date back to 1994, and a unanimous recommendation from the NOSB in 2011 led to the USDA proposing the changes in April of last year.
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