Farm Forward, in collaboration with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), has released a comprehensive report calling on the USDA to finalize the pending Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP). The report, titled “Animal Welfare in the National Organic Program: The USDA Must Act Quickly to Ensure Consumer Trust,” documents how farmers, retailers, and consumer advocates overwhelmingly support—and expect—stronger welfare standards for animals raised under the organic program.
Read the full report here
The OLPP rule fills critical gaps in the current organic standards and requires, for the first time, outdoor access for all animals including egg-laying hens, indoor and outdoor minimum space requirements, restrictions on physical alterations like beak trimming, and standards for more humane transport and slaughter.
The OLPP rule codifies practices that the vast majority of organic farmers already follow. For example, most organic egg farms already provide hens with meaningful access to outdoors. Unfortunately, the current organic regulations include a loophole allowing producers to use enclosed “porches” over concrete pads as opposed to actual outdoor access. “The OLPP rule levels the playing field for small- and medium-sized farmers,” says Andrew deCoriolis of Farm Forward. “Farmers who provide real outdoor access are otherwise disadvantaged competing with large-scale, “organic” factory farms that don’t give animals true access to the outdoors.”
Consumer Reports found that 83 percent of consumers who buy organic foods want strong protections for animals raised under the organic program, including outdoor access for chickens and laying hens.1 Scientists and veterinarians have affirmed the benefits of outdoor access and confirmed that it does not increase the risk of animal disease.
Opposition to the OLPP rule comes mainly from a small group of industry lobbyists and large-scale organic egg companies. Even though trade groups like the National Pork Producers Council don’t represent organic farmers, they combat efforts to establish welfare requirements for animals—even in a voluntary program like Certified Organic—for fear that the government may pass stricter laws protecting animal welfare. Large organic egg companies oppose the rule because if they fail to provide meaningful outdoor access (which will be difficult at their scale), they won’t be able to sell their products at a premium without the organic label.
After delaying the OLPP rule twice, President Trump’s USDA is now considering repealing the rule entirely. We can’t let this happen. After more than a decade of work by farmers, welfare groups, veterinarians, scientists, and consumers, we must ensure that corporate farms don’t water down the meaning of important labels, like Certified Organic.
This blog was authored by Erin Eberle, former Director of Engagement at Farm Forward.