The Changing Requirements Behind Organic Posted on 24 Apr 10:49
At Tyner Pond Farm, we’ve been going above and beyond rules required for “organic” certification since we were founded, and we plan to continue to do so. We never use hormones or antibiotics, even though organic rules permit some use of antibiotics. We’ve always given our animals open grasslands to roam and forage. We believe that treating animals right is good for the animals, good for the land, and good for our customers.
We wanted to provide a bit of context to the changing requirements behind organic so you can make better decisions about the meat you purchase. On January 18, 2017, the Obama administration finalized the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rules for the requirements of the Organic label. The new rules codify practices that a lot of people took for granted in organic meats. The new rules address two goals:
- “To ensure that organic farms and businesses are consistently applying organic regulations for livestock and poultry operations; and”
- “To assure consumers that organically produced products meet a consistent standard, which will support consumer confidence in organically-labeled products and continued market growth.”
For chickens, the new organic rules “prohibit physical alterations include de-beaking of birds, docking of cows’ tails, de-snooding, dubbing, and face branding of cattle, and mulesing of sheep.” They also provide clarity around “outdoor access” with the new rules stating that “organic birds be provided with year-round access to the outdoors” with “a sufficient number” of “appropriately distributed” doors so chickens can actually go outside. Plus the new rules define “outdoor space” as having “at least 50% soil covered with maximum vegetation suited to the time of year and climate.”
Mammals, such as cows and pigs, must have “space and freedom to lie down, turn around, stand up, fully stretch their limbs, and express normal patterns of behavior; and areas for bedding and resting must be sufficiently large, solidly built, and comfortable so that animals are kept clean and dry.” The new rules also require that farmers “maintain the maximum amount of vegetation on outdoor soil, as appropriate for the season, climate, geography, and species of livestock. All producers must provide year-round access to the outdoors. For ruminants, such as cows, sheep, and goats, producers must provide pasture during the grazing season to meet previously established requirements.”
In January 2017, President Trump tapped former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue as his pick for secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Perdue (no relation to Perdue chicken) is expected to be confirmed by the Senate today (April 24, 2017). It remains to be seen if any organic certification rules will change.
If you'd like to see how Tyner Pond Farm promotes animal ethics and regenerative agriculture every day, come visit our farm in Greenfield. We’d love to show you around and introduce you to our animals!