United Poultry Concerns September 1, 2006

Organic Standards for Poultry

"Organic" refers mainly to the ingredients animals raised for food are fed.
Producers can call their products natural or cage-free or free-range, but this is not monitored by any agency. The only term with a strict definition is "organic," whereby the USDA (since 2002) is supposed to inspect the source of food and certify that the meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals who are fed no antibiotics, growth hormones, or animal byproducts. Animals must also be produced without using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Depending on the farm, birds may or may not be debeaked, force-molted, severely crowded, etc. 
In May 2002, the National Organic Standards Board withstood firerce lobbying by the industrial poultry industry by voting in favor of requiring outdoor access for poultry. The board was empowered by the US Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act to make recommendations to the US Department of Agriculture regarding the contents of the Organic Rule, which defines the substances and practices that can be used to produce products with the USDA organic label. The 15-member board voted 12 to 1 to keep the outdoor-access for poultry rule.
In 2006, the National Institute for Animal Agriculture, an industry trade group, resolved to encourage the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Veterinary Services to change Section 205.239.a.1 of the National Organic Program regulations to eliminate the words "Access to the outdoors" as a requirement for production of USDA cerfied organic poultry," citing avian influenza as the reason, even though virulent avian influenza (bird flu) has been correlated specifically with industrial poultry production amd transport locations. Currently, the worldwide poultry industry is seeking government support for enclosing all birds raised for food in factory farms. 
In organic farming as in all commercial animal farming, all animals who do not die prematurely or are not culled (destroyed) at the farm level are sent to slaughter or to live animal markets or Somewhere to be disposed of. Organic has nothing to do with transport or slaughter methods or, essentially, husbandry practices. It's primarily about Feed, although some farmers choose to include better living conditions for the animals they raise.  
Like the "free-range" label, the "organic" label does not indicate that animals were treated any differently while being transported or slaughtered than animals raised on factory farms. Organically fed birds, like their mega-factory-farm counterparts, have no federal welfare protection during any phase of their lives. Re hormones: the FDA has not approved applications for hormone administration to poultry for many years, when the hormone DES, a carcinogen, was found in the livers, kidneys and skin of slaughtered birds. For this reason, it was banned in 1961.
Karen Davis, PhD, President
United Poultry Concerns

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

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