"The USDA took a huge step forward last year by proposing a rule that would bring consumer expectations closer to reality by making animal welfare standards part of its requirements for organic certification," said Steve Lykken, Applegate president. "Now the department is again postponing the effective date of the rule, continuing to leave consumers confused and a growing organic industry at a disadvantage."
According to Lykken, consumers have been confused for some time on what organic means. He adds that many consumers mistake the term organic on meat and poultry products as meaning that some form of animal welfare guidelines were followed throughout the process from birth to package.
The USDA has postponed the effective date of final Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule to Nov. 14 and is seeking public comment again until June 9. For now, the only animal care practices covered under the organic label on meat and poultry products are the prohibition of antibiotics and the use of organic feed that is pesticide free.
The new rule will include animal health care practices and living conditions, such as establishing minimum space requirements for poultry and prohibiting physical alterations such as debeaking of chickens and routine tail docking of hogs.
"Enacting the final rule will be a benefit for both consumers and industry – it's time for USDA to stop dragging its feet," Lykken said. "Applegate sources from more than 279 organic livestock and poultry producers, and we think raising animals humanely should be an essential part of the definition for organic and natural meat." Lykken added that the vast majority of Applegate's network farmers are certified by third parties for improved animal welfare standards, including Certified Humane and Global Animal Partnership.
Consumers can submit comments to by visiting the Organic Trade Association website, which offers sample statements of support and an easy-to-access Federal Register portal, http://www.ota.com/livestockpractices.