USDA Establishes Animal Welfare Standards for Organic Program

In November, the US Department of Agriculture published a final rule establishing animal welfare standards for the millions of animals raised on organic farms. The Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) rule is the result of decades of advocacy in which AWI worked to better align the “USDA Organic” label with consumer expectations for how organically raised animals are treated. 

Under the new rule, all animals will be guaranteed true access to the outdoors—closing a loophole that has for years allowed mega-egg operations to count barren, screened-in concrete porches as outdoor access for the hens. Additionally, the rule mandates environmental enrichment and bars many painful physical mutilations and the extreme confinement of gestation and farrowing crates. 

The USDA made several improvements to the final OLPS version that conformed to changes proposed by AWI during the public comment period. Specifically, the soil requirement for outdoor areas increased from 50 percent coverage to 75 percent coverage, the amount of time newborn calves could be housed individually was shortened from six months to the time it takes to complete weaning, and transport standards were altered to require plans for care if transport exceeds eight hours. 

Organic farms have until January 2, 2025, to comply, with the exception of certain poultry operations, which will have an additional four years to comply with outdoor access requirements for egg-laying hens and outdoor and indoor space requirements for meat chickens.

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