USDA Tosses Humane Treatment Rules for Organic Label

USDA strips humane treatment rules: A rule that had been in the making for 10 years and finalized in April 2017 by the USDA to standardize the way animals are treated if being sold under an organic label was just rescinded by the new administration.   This March the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices Rule was tossed out.   

What does this mean for you, the consumer?  If you are buying animal products with the organic label under the assumption that those animals are being treated differently than animals on traditional factory farms, think again.  The tossing of the rule means that large factory farms who have bought the organic label from the USDA can continue to tout their products as “free-range” and “humanely treated” while still confining them to small, cramped spaces without ever being outside and continuing practices like de-beaking, tail docking and rough handling on the way to slaughter.  The rule had also required animals to have year-round access to the outdoors and ensured indoor space was sufficiently large enough to allow the animals to stand up and stretch their limbs. Non-ambulatory animals, such as those with broken limbs or those too sick to move, must be medically treated, even if doing so would remove their “organic” status. Animals had to be able to walk on their own before they were transported to buyers, auction houses, or slaughterhouses.

Organic meat and dairy sales totaled $47 billion in 2016, and the organic egg market grew by 12.7 percent annually between 2007 and 2016. About 30 percent of American households now buy organic, according to Packaged Facts, a consumer research company.

Factory farms dominate the meat industry,  churning out cheap food in dangerous conditions.  Individual farmers know the loss they would take if they treated their animals in the same way, and the majority would not even think of treating their livestock the way huge factory farms do.  Chasing the organic label put small farms on the map, allowing them to produce a heavily curated product where the consumer could rely on the organic label as something worth the expense.  With the tossing of this rule, the playing field is once again unleveled and it’s the small farms that will suffer. 

TThe lowering of standards for large corporate farms, means the lowering of costs for them as well, allowing them to again flood the market with cheap products and no oversight, leaving the small family farmer alone in their fight to bring well-treated animals to market.  The striping of the rule makes the label worthless as far as humane treatment goes.  Once again the American public is being duped into believing that they are contributing to sustainable and humane farming by using their hard-earned money on the organic label.  

Organic meat and dairy sales totaled $47 billion in 2016, and the organic egg market grew by 12.7 percent annually between 2007 and 2016. About 30 percent of American households now buy organic, according to Packaged Facts, a consumer research company.  As factory farm standards lower and organic label food gets cheaper and cheaper, we really will “get what we pay for” in the end.

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