An investigation conducted by the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, has discovered violations at 14 industrial livestock operations producing animal products marketed, illegally, the group alleges, as organic. Illegal, because these factory farm conditions are not in compliance with organic laws.
The Cornucopia Institute says that after years of inaction by the USDA on the issue, it obtained aerial photographs in nine states of industrial-scale confinement facilities that fly in the face of the organic standards developed to protect the American people from factory produced animal products.
Captured in the photos taken in states including Texas, New York and Maryland, the Cornucopia Institute revealed that the animals were not given access to outdoors or grazing opportunities as required by the federal organic regulations.
“The federal organic regulations make it very clear that all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and that ruminants, like dairy cows, must have access to pasture,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute. “The vast majority of these massive, industrial-scale facilities, some managing 10,000-20,000 head of cattle, and upwards of 1 million laying hens, had 100% of their animals confined in giant buildings or feedlots.”
The photos depict factory farm-like facilities that support brands including Horizon and Aurora, two companies still under investigation by the USDA after Cornucopia filed complaints over similar violations back in 2004.
“In the chicken industry the USDA has allowed corporate agribusiness to confine as many as 100,000 laying hens in a building, sometimes exceeding 1 million birds on a ‘farm,’ and substituting a tiny screened porch for true access to the outdoors,” the group said in a statement on its website. “Quite frankly, even if Miles McEvoy, who currently directs the [National Organic Program], believes that a porch, with a floor, ceiling and screened walls, constitutes ‘the outdoors,’ if only 5% of the birds have access or can fit in that space, then 95% of the others are being illegally confined,” Cornucopia’s Kastel stated.
“Shoppers, who passionately support the ideals and values represented by the organic label, understandably feel betrayed when they see photos of these massive CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) masquerading as organic,” Kastel added.
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Images via Cornucopia