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USDA develops new standards for organic livestock and poultry production


Promotes animal welfare while supporting a more competitive organic market and consumer transparency

Anton Dios / stock.adobe.com

Anton Dios / stock.adobe.com

The United States Department of Agriculture announced in a release that agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack previewed the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) final rule. This rule creates clear, strong, and consistent standards for organic livestock and poultry production, evens the playing field for organic livestock farmers, ranchers, and businesses while also supporting fairer, more competitive markets for their products and offering consumers more transparency surrounding their purchases.1

"USDA is creating a fairer, more competitive and transparent food system. This organic poultry and livestock standard establishes clear and strong standards that will increase the consistency of animal welfare practices in organic production and in how these practices are enforced," expressed Vilsack, in the release.1 "Competitive markets help deliver greater value to all producers, regardless of size."

The update was made in response to strong interest from consumers and the organic industry. According to the release,1 USDA received over 40,000 written comments from the public, all of which were carefully looked over to inform drafting of this final rule. USDA hosted a virtual listening session in August 2022 to hear public comments on the proposed rule.1,2

The final rule describes more consistent standards for 6 main areas regarding animal welfare, including1:

  • Outdoor space requirements: OLPS sets minimum outdoor space requirements for organic poultry and requires ready access to the outdoors. Outdoor areas must be at least 75% soil and include vegetation to the degree possible.
  • Indoor and outdoor living conditions: Shelters must have sufficient space for livestock to lie down, stand up, turn around, fully stretch their limbs or wings and express natural behaviors, such as rooting in pigs and scratching in chickens. Bedding areas must be sufficiently large and comfortable to keep livestock hygienic (for the species), dry, and free of lesions.
  • Poultry stocking densities: The rule sets specific requirements for indoor and outdoor stocking densities to align with advisory board recommendations, third-party animal welfare standards and public comments from organic stakeholders.
  • Preventive health care practices: Producers must maintain preventive health care practices that include sufficient nutrition and comprehensive parasite prevention plans. Animals must be treated with allowed medicines to minimize pain, stress, and suffering. All necessary treatment must be administered, even if the animal loses its organic status.
  • Physical alterations and euthanasia: Physical alterations are permitted only for identification purposes or the safety of the animals, and certain alterations are prohibited altogether. Alterations must be performed at a young age for the species and in a manner that minimizes the animal’s pain and stress. Humane euthanasia may only be used if treatment is not an option.​
  • Transport, handling, and slaughter: Operations must describe how organic management and animal welfare will be maintained for transport that exceeds 8 hours​. Animals must be fit for transport. The mode of transport must be seasonally appropriate to protect livestock from cold or heat​. Operations must adhere to USDA (FSIS) humane slaughter standards​.

In tandem with USDA-accredited certifiers, USDA’s National Organic Program will oversee the implementation of and enforce compliance with these standards.1

The implementation of OLPS will offer organic livestock and poultry farmers, ranchers and businesses, including those interested in transitioning to organic, more opportunities for fair competition. It also is better in line with consumers’ expectations of animal welfare and organic standards for products with a USDA seal.

This ultimately will help to create greater value for the producers as consumers are willing to pay a premium for organic livestock products.1 Thus, promoting an all-around fairer, more competitive, and transparent food system.

In March this year, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) previewed the Strengthening Organic Enforcement (SOE) final rule.3 According to the release,1 this final rule is the “biggest update to the organic regulations since the original Act in 1990, providing a significant increase in oversight and enforcement authority to reinforce the trust of consumers, farmers and those transitioning to organic production.”

The final rule will be published in the Federal Register. A preview of the rule is on the AMS website.2


  1. USDA publishes new standards for organic livestock and poultry production, promotes more competitive organic market. News release. United States Department of Agriculture. October 25, 2023. Accessed October 25, 2023. https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2023/10/25/usda-publishes-new-standards-organic-livestock-and-poultry
  2. Organic livestock and poultry standards. United States Department of Agriculture. Accessed October 25, 2023. https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/organic-livestock-and-poultry-standards
  3. Strengthening organic enforcement. Accessed October 25, 2023. https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/strengthening-organic-enforcement
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