A.R.S. poultry farm earns organic certification

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – A poultry research facility operated by the Agricultural Research Service (A.R.S.) in Fayetteville, Ark., which is one of the first such facilities for poultry research in the U.S., has earned organic certification, relays A.R.S. writer Sharon Durham.

Last year, scientists at the A.R.S. Poultry Production and Product Safety Research Unit started developing the agency's Organic Poultry Research facility and were granted certification in February 2010.

The facility will be used by Anne Fanatico, research associate, and research leader Annie Donoghue to examine ways of using natural compounds to reduce foodborne pathogens and diseases in poultry. Both researchers have taken the lead as part of a group of researchers throughout the country to study these compounds for organic poultry.

Although organic poultry producers have placed concerns with Salmonella and Campylobacter as high-priority areas, there are only a limited number of safe, effective and approved organic treatments to prevent and treat health problems in organic flocks.

Natural compounds such as caprylic acid — a fatty acid naturally found in milk and coconuts — and essential plant extracts all have antimicrobial efficacy against poultry enteric pathogens, based on the results of collaborative studies with the University of Connecticut and the University of Arkansas. These compounds could provide solutions to address food-safety concerns in organic production systems.

In order to work directly with organic producers to solve pathogen and disease issues on an organic poultry farm, Ms. Fanatico and Ms. Donoghue have also formed the Organic Poultry Advisory Board.

Ms. Durham writes the state-of-the-art organic poultry research facility was developed collaboratively between the A.R.S. unit in Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas. The research facility is a fixed poultry house with large, grassy yards. The facility has the capacity for 20 floor pens, each 10 feet by 10 feet, and each pen has a four-foot by two-foot opening to an outdoor yard. Each enclosed outdoor yard is 1,000 square feet. The house is naturally ventilated with glass windows for natural light. The large yards will have vegetation year-round due to location in a warm climate and are designed for high-use.

The facility meets the livestock requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) National Organic Program and the animal welfare recommendations for poultry by the National Organic Standards Board and the Organic Poultry Guidance Document of the Accredited Certifiers Association. Both organizations encourage a high amount of outdoor access.

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