USDA sets new living standards for organic livestock and poultry

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COLUMBIA - The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new set of regulations on Wednesday that clarifies standards for living conditions for organic livestock and poultry. 

According to the USDA, it will enforce these regulations:

  • All organic animals must spend time outside if temperatures are between 40 and 90 degrees
  • Outdoor spaces must have soil and vegetation
  • There must be six inches of perch space per bird
  • Indoor ammonia levels cannot exceed 25 PPM

Tim Gibbons, the communications director for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Patchwork Family Farms, said the regulations will make things clearer for organic producers.

"It clarifies the definition of what and how an animal can be raised in an organic system. And right now those rules are sort of murky," Gibbons said.

According to Gibbons, raising livestock outdoors can affect the quality of meat.

"We know that raising hogs in a more traditional way and a more natural environment impacts the taste of the meat and the products that consumers are buying," Gibbons said.

The new regulations don't just affect organic producers. Gibbons said the new regulations will ensure that consumer expectations related to the treatment of animals they eat. 

"The protection of the organic standard and what consumers expect when they go to the grocery store and buy organic is of the utmost importance," Gibbons said. "If they lose any sort of faith or confidence in that standard, it could damage a large industry, an industry that helps independent family farmers, that helps rural communities and helps consumers have access to products that they’re looking for.”

By 2018, farmers will have to meet all of the new requirements except the outdoor access requirements for layer chickens and indoor requirements for broiler chickens.

By 2020, indoor space requirements must be met for organic broiler chicken operations. By 2022, all organic poultry operations have to meet outdoor access requirements. Before 2022, producers can use soil-less areas to keep their livestock.

The regulation enforcement staggering will give producers time to upgrade their equipment and living spaces for livestock and poultry. 

More information on the regulations can be found at the USDA's website.