DEADLINE July 13: Tell the NOP: Bare Dirt and Concrete Aren't Organic!
Picture the farm where your organic eggs, chicken and turkey come from. See birds chasing insects in green pastures, scratching in the dirt to dust bathe and hunt for worms, and roosting in trees? That’s how most small-scale organic farmers raise their birds.
Unfortunately, most of the “organic” eggs and poultry produced in the U.S. come from large-scale factory farms, where the birds are cooped up indoors. These operations are breaking the rule that requires outdoor access for all organic animals.
The good news is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) is finally cracking down on the organic industry’s rotten eggs. The bad news is the NOP is proposing that “outdoors” can be as little as two square feet per bird of bare dirt and concrete.
TAKE ACTION: DEADLINE July 13: Tell the NOP: Bare Dirt and Concrete Aren't Organic! Fill in the form on this page to sign the petition.
Thanks to the nearly 20,000 of you who asked Congress to let the NOP proceed with its plan to crack down on the big “organic” egg and poultry operations, we’ve dodged the first bullet—members of the Ag Appropriations Committee were unable to push through a proposed amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill for fiscal 2017 which would have killed the NOP proposal before the USDA even got the chance to even review the comments by the June 13 deadline.
Now that we’ve cleared that roadblock, we have to convince the NOP to make meaningful, not just symbolic, change.
According to a poll conducted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a majority of consumers believe organic animals already have access to pasture. And nearly everyone thinks they should.
More than 60 percent of all consumers believe that organic standards require “all animals have access to outdoor pasture and fresh air throughout the day.”
More than 90 percent of all consumers think that organic standards should require “vegetation to graze on,” “access to open pasture,” and “natural ground not concrete.”
Unfortunately, the “USDA Organic” label doesn’t guarantee that the eggs and poultry you buy comes from animals who have “access to outdoor pasture and fresh air throughout the day.”
Also unfortunate? The fact that “organic” eggs from chickens raised in factory farm-like conditions are less nutritious than from chickens raised on pasture. According to the USDA-funded National Center for Appropriate Technology’s report, “Pastured Poultry Nutrition and Forages,” eggs from grass-fed flocks “tend to have less cholesterol, more vitamins A and E, multiplied Omega-3 content, and a healthier ratio of Omega-3s to Omega-6s,” while “the results of poultry meat production on pasture are similar.”
The only way to be sure you are buying organic eggs and poultry that live up to the “pasture-raised” standard, which includes raising birds on an organic diet, is to look for an additional animal welfare label like “Animal Welfare Approved,” “Certified Humane – Pasture Raised,” or “American Humane Certified – Pasture.”
What about the organic eggs, chicken and turkey that don’t have additional labels?
The Cornucopia Institute spent a year researching the organic egg business to produce a scorecard that rates 136 different name brand and private-label eggs. Only 22 of the 136 are “truly pastured.”
It’s time for the NOP to crack down on egg and poultry operations that are skirting the rules. And it’s time to toughen up the rules themselves. But the NOP’s new proposed rule’s recommendation for only 2 square feet per bird of outdoor space doesn’t go far enough.
TAKE ACTION: DEADLINE July 13: Tell the NOP: Bare Dirt and Concrete Aren't Organic!