The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued new guidelines on the standards required for organic meat and poultry.
In a statement, the USDA said its new rule “strengthens the organic standards, and ensures that all organic animals live in pasture based systems utilizing production practices that support their well-being and natural behaviour. It’s an important step that will strengthen consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal and ensure that organic agriculture continues to provide economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and businesses across the country.
“The rule clarifies how organic producers and handlers must treat their animals, brings clarity to the existing USDA organic regulations, and adds new requirements for organic livestock and poultry living conditions, transport, and slaughter practices.”
The rule establishes minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for organic chickens, clarifies that outdoor spaces must include soil and vegetation, adds humane handling requirements, and clarifies humane slaughter requirements.
The USDA said that while many organic farmers already complied with these new requirements, those who didn’t would have to change their practices.
“Within one year, all provisions – except for outdoor access requirements for layers and indoor space requirements for broilers – must be implemented. Within three years, organic broiler operations must comply with the indoor space requirements. Within five years, all organic poultry operations must comply with the outdoor access requirements,” the USDA said.
USDA said it was committed to supporting the continued growth of the organic livestock and poultry sector, and ensuring consumer confidence in the organic market, which in 2015 was worth over $43 billion in the US alone.