New and improved organic pasture standards
Until now, the amount of time certain organically raised animals were required to spend grazing on grass was murky at best. But last month, the United States Department of Agriculture took an important step to clear up confusion when it issued a new final rule on Access to Pasture.
NEW MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS
The new standard spells out how much access to pasture ruminant livestock animals, including cows, sheep, and goats, must be given in order to qualify as organically raised. By July 2011, producers of organic animal products will be required to provide animals with:
• Year-round access to the outdoors (and therefore animals cannot be continuously confined indoors), including those animals that are being “finished”—the fattening period for meat production;
• Access to pasture throughout the grazing season for their geographical location; and
• Not less than an average of 30 percent of their dry matter intake (i.e. nutritional) from pasture over the course of the grazing season (totaling at least 120 days), among other things.
Previously, there were no such minimum requirements.
CONSUMERS UNION COMMENDS USDA
Consumers Union, which has long advocated for strong standards on the organic label, commends USDA on this action.
“This new standard goes a long way to bridging the gap between consumer expectation and the realities of how much time organic animals are required to spend in the pasture. And we commend the USDA for pushing the bar higher by laying out specific guidelines so that organic farmers have to raise their livestock in a way that allows them to graze outdoors, exhibiting more natural behavior.” Urvashi Rangan, PhD, Director of Technical Policy, Consumers Union.