According to the organic watchdog group, the Cornucopia Institute, the USDA has refused to investigate 14 legal complaints brought on by the organization. The complaints allege that major organic farms aren't providing their livestock with access to the outdoors—a requirement for organic certification.
Cornucopia used aerial photography to show not only are the farms not the quaint organic plots one might picture, the fields outside the barns are empty, leaving some to wonder why all the pasturing livestock are left inside. However, the USDA claims the farms are in good standing with the agency and the aerial photos aren’t enough to require further inquiry.
"The photographic information submitted is insufficient to warrant investigation," according to the letter from Matthew Michael, director of compliance in the USDA's organic program, reported The Washington Post. "The photographs depict a single moment in time and do not demonstrate that the operations denied outdoor access to livestock."
Cornucopia also claims the farms don’t have enough land for all the livestock to graze, and that this is part of a system of abuse that tricks consumers into thinking they’re supporting the humane treatment of animals when they’re not.
"The organic regulations are clear," Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at Cornucopia said in a statement. "With minor and allowable ‘temporary’ exceptions, dairy cows should be out grazing on pasture and poultry should have access to the outdoors. These operations appear to have miserably failed to meet the criteria."
According to The Washington Post, these five organic dairies and nine chicken operations supply mega grocery chains that include Walmart, Costco, and Target. The farms claim the animals were outside on the day the photos were taken, just not when the photographers happened to be flying over.
From the Organic Authority Files
"It must simply be an incredible and amazing coincidence that no birds – zero – were outdoors, and only a fraction of the tens of thousands of cows on the industrial-scale dairies were observed on grass. Most were confined to giant feedlots," noted Will Fantle, Cornucopia's Research Director.
"This simply does not pass the smell test," Fantle added. "Who are you going to believe, the paperwork from the NOP and certifiers, or your own eyes?"
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Image: Cornucopia Institute