by Countable | Updated on 7.11.18
UPDATE - March 13, 2018: The Trump administration has officially withdrawn an Obama-era rule that would have set higher standards for the way animals should be treated if their meat can be sold as "certified organic."
In the dying days of the Obama administration, the USDA gave their final approval to the Organic Animal Welfare Rule, also known as the Organic Livestock and Poultry Production rule. The OLLP included a requirement that organic egg producers provide actual outdoor space – around 2 square feet – for each egg-laying hen.
Trump's USDA delayed the implementation of the rule three times before officially overturning it on Monday.
“The existing robust organic livestock and poultry regulations are effective,” Greg Ibach, under secretary of Agriculture for marketing and regulatory programs, said in a statement. “The organic industry’s continued growth domestically and globally shows that consumers trust the current approach that balances consumer expectations and the needs of organic producers and handlers.”
Countable's original story appears below.
Organic eggs are supposed to come from chickens with year-round access to the outdoors. But what, exactly, does "year round access to the outdoors" mean?
A lawsuit filed by the Organic Trade Association against the U.S. Department of Agriculture is hoping to answer that question. The OTA is suing the government, demanding, as NPR explained, "that [the USDA] implement new rules that require organic egg producers to give their chickens more room to roam."
Large-scale organic egg producers, however, argue that "access to the outdoors" includes coops with screened-in porches.
When the Trump administration took office, it issued a regulatory freeze order to federal agencies—including the USDA. The OTA lawsuit is arguing that the January 20, 2017 freeze "should not apply to organic standards because they are voluntary and are required only of those farms and businesses that opt in to be certified organic." The association is demanding that the government implement the OLLP rules, striking down “the use of ‘porches’ to comply with the existing outdoor access requirements.”
Large-scale organic egg producers are continuing to push back. "It's kind of like your screened porch on your house," Greg Herbruck, president of Herbruck's Poultry Ranch in Saranac, Mich., explained to NPR. "When you go out there, you're outside. You're protected from the rain. In this case, we protect [the chickens] from disease and from predators."
There’s also an economic advantage: screened-in porches mean chicken houses can be built right next to each other, "with more than 100,000 chickens in each one," according to NPR. Nearly half of all organic eggs in the U.S. come from farms like this.
Smaller farms, and activists, have been trying for more than a decade to revamp the outdoor-access requirements for organic chickens. "It needs to be a whole system that features the bird's basic needs, and there's no doubt that a hen wants to be outside scratching in the ground," George Siemon, CEO of the Organic Valley cooperative, told NPR.
In a statement released by OTA, Siemon further explained that the "organic consumer and community" worked closely with the USDA and Congress, through an “established rulemaking process,” to craft the “sound regulation.” "For the [Trump] administration to now let political pressure derail that progress is an assault on the trust in the organic process that the organic industry works so hard every day to earn," Simeon said.
"Animal living conditions and welfare are a critical part of an organic livestock system. We in organic need to lead on this front, and the consumer’s trust in organic needs to be respected."
Does "outdoor access" mean claws on grass? Or are screened-in porches acceptable? Do you agree with Herbruck that porches are better for the birds? Or do you side with Siemon that there’s “no doubt that a hen wants to be outside scratching in the ground”? Hit the Take Action button, tell your reps, then comment below.
(Photo Credit: Ihor Kashurin) / iStockphoto)
Written by Countable
Organic chickens should be allowed to graze on untreated, chemical free open land!
If you want the organic label you should be required to give these chickens an organic life. That means providing true outdoor access. All animals, even if they end up on our plates, deserve the semblance of a descent life before they die. They are sentient creatures that deserve to have a good clean life followed by a good clean death. As Temple Grandin said "nature is cruel, but we don't have to be." I would happily pay a dollar or two more for eggs, chicken and other meats if I was given the guarantee that it had a good life.
What s stupid question. ALL CHICKENS SHOULD HAVE OUTDOOR ACCESS. ORGANIC CHICKENS SHOULD BE BE FREE TO COME & OPEN LAND ON FREE OF CHEMICALS.
Organic chicken and organic eggs should have access to the outdoors with room to scratch and eat the things chickens normally eat. They should also have humane chicken houses with enough room to move around. I was raised on a farm and I know how much better our chicken tasted than what I buy in the grocery today. Chickens, as all animals, should have a right to good quality of life. What right do we have to put cattle in feed lots, pigs in fences just big enough for them to lay down, and chickens in houses squashed up against each other while eating the waste from the chickens above? And this is done in the name of profit. If people boycotted meat and eggs produced in this fashion we would see a change.
Will this administration not be happy until we are all suffering from salmonela poisoning? Is it this administrations intent on lining the pockets of the enormous food corporations until every small farmer is pushed out? Because, that is what will happen. If #45 chooses to eat buckets of fast food chicken, that’s his choice. But leave the rest of us who want chickens to be raised in healthy and safe environments uncontaminated by disease that comes from overcrowding and have the stamp of the USDA confirm those standards!
Yes, of course! How can they call them free range if they can’t even go outside?
Chicken should not be labeled organic if the chickens are not treated humanely and allowed to go outside daily.
As someone who owned chickens outdoors means they have there feet on the grass or snow if it gets cold and they feel like going out! I don't see anything wrong with a wire cover that keeps the chickens safe from flying predators. We had repurposed some chickens wire to fit over the fence we built around there barn to keep them safe. We also allowed them to leave the fence with supervision to roam around the rest of the yard. If that's what the farmer where doing I wouldn't see it as a problem but from the sound of it that doesn't seem to be the case.
All chickens are organic All living things are organic Everything that lives and breathes should have outdoor access
Animal welfare and animal rights are important to any country that calls itself “civilized”. Period. Trump and his low IQ administration are in the process of uncivilizing America!
After buying organic foods for 40 years, I am discouraged by the move to water down the definition of organic. This administration is all smoke and mirrors. I am tired of Republicans twisting the meaning of words with phony great sounding bills that do the opposite of their implication. The disregard for the meaning of words has made communication a farce. Organic chickens need fresh air, room to move outdoors and organic feed. Is there any wonder that citizens do not trust this government when they keep choosing to accommodate business to the detriment of the health, well being and integrity of the people and the environment. Such a change makes the word organic meaningless. Every week there is another betrayal of the public. Money worshipping has blinded the Repubs.
All livestock should be treated humanely and have access to outdoors.
I saw a documentary some time back on how most supposedly "cage free" chickens are raised, including those designated as organic. It was so sickening and monstrous that I won't go into it here, but it was tears in my eyes, sick to my stomach terrible. It was so awful I stopped buying eggs at the grocery store for quite a while until I found an organic free range brand that promises eggs produced organically with plenty of space for the chickens to roam. Yes, they are a little more expensive, but well worth it not to have to envision such barbaric cruelty to helpless animals every time I crack an egg. I absolutely support insisting the natural needs of chickens be considered when designating eggs as organic. To do otherwise is false advertising which leads consumers to make choices they might not make if they knew the facts.
Hemp seeds contain the highest quality protein. Switching from a diet of mostly meat protein to mostly hemp protein will improve your health and reduce your carbon footprint. Please ask you representatives to legalize healthy food.
Organic chickens should be pasture-raised. A better quality of life makes for a healthier animal. A healthier animal makes a better food source.
I grew up with chickens in the yard, roosting in trees, and chicken nests. We’d get eggs from nests, but also find in the yard. Scratching in the dirt and catching bugs was part of their lives. Organic to me means natural. Egg production with caged chickens who never touch the ground is not natural. Organically grown standards should require free range time.
Yes. If labeled organic and free range, they must eat organic feed and roam outside at will.
To quote Christian: "If you want the organic label you should be required to give these chickens an organic life. That means providing true outdoor access. All animals, even if they end up on our plates, deserve the semblance of a descent life before they die. They are sentient creatures that deserve to have a good clean life followed by a good clean death. As Temple Grandin said "nature is cruel, but we don't have to be." I would happily pay a dollar or two more for eggs, chicken and other meats if I was given the guarantee that it had a good life."
Yes, it makes the eggs taste better and healthier for the chickens
The Organic Trade Association should be allowed to define the rules of what it means to be Organic. Any one or any business wishing to operate in the Organic market, should comply with the Organic rules and regulations to receive certification of Organic. Furthermore, any food producer or manufacturer, that is not Certified Organic, should have a BIG RED stamp on their unhealthy products, such as "COMMERCIALIZED FOOD PRODUCT". "Corporate profits are priority #1 and consumer's health is at the bottom of the priority list."