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USDA proposed organic livestock rule and animal welfare standards

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service announced it will be issuing a proposed rule that amends the organic livestock and poultry production requirements to provide clear guidance on animal welfare for organic producers and handlers. The purpose of the proposed rule is to ensure consistent application of animal welfare standards and maintain confidence in organically labeled products.

The proposed changes are based on recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board. The major provisions include:

  • Clarifying how producers and handlers must treat livestock and poultry to ensure their health and wellbeing throughout life, including transport and slaughter.
  • Specifying which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited in organic livestock and poultry production. The proposed rule allows for pigs’ tails to be docked but docking should not be “routinely used,” and the practice must include documentation that “alternative methods” to prevent pigs from biting each other’s tails failed.
  • Establishing minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.

AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer says, “By strengthening standards for organic livestock and poultry, we are ensuring that we meet consumer expectations and maintain the integrity of the organic seal to support the sector’s continued growth. This proposal sets clear standards for organic animals, providing clarity to organic operation and certifying agents, and establishing a level playing field for all producers.”

AMS says the proposed rule will be published in the “Federal Register” in the near future.

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