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New Report Slams USDA for Indefinitely Stalling Animal Welfare Regulations in Organic Poultry Production

April 24th, 2014
Center for Food Safety

Center for Food Safety Counters Economic Assessment Relied Upon by USDA

Center for Food Safety’s (CFS) whitepaper, released today, chastises the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for stalling poultry animal welfare regulations and hiding behind a faulty economic impact analysis.  CFS’s white paper reveals that the vast majority of egg and poultry operations would not be financially impacted by increased animal welfare standards, making USDA’s failure to implement regulations suspect. Report authors further conclude that by ignoring expectations and ethics inherent in organic purchasing habits, USDA’s inaction could threaten the overall success of the organic brand.

“Strong animal welfare standards are critical to the integrity of the organic industry,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “Our report shows that USDA’s flawed economic analysis and its decision to indefinitely delay animal welfare regulations demonstrates a clear lack of understanding about the value animal welfare brings to the organic industry and label.”

In response to recommendations put forth by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), USDA commissioned an economic assessment, which asserts that a handful of large organic egg producers would exit the organic market if USDA requires improved living conditions for poultry.  The authors claim that the economic impact on the largest producers—housing more than 100,000 birds—would be “substantial.”

Yet the assessment overlooks the obvious question: whether facilities this large could ever meet the baseline animal welfare requirements recommended by the NOSB? USDA’s economic assessment acknowledges that the majority of small and medium-sized producers already comply with NOSB’s recommendations. Yet the agency has nonetheless allowed a few large producers to assert unwarranted influence in its decision to take no action. 

“One percent of large organic egg and poultry producers are holding 99 percent of the industry hostage by unduly influencing USDA to delay implementation of animal welfare regulations,” said Lisa J. Bunin, Ph.D., organic policy director for Center for Food Safety.  “If USDA fails to remedy this situation by adopting timely regulations, consumer confidence in organic will suffer.”

In advance of next week’s the NOSB meeting in San Antonio, Texas, CFS urges USDA’s National Organic Program to promulgate strong animal welfare standards, which are crucial to the success of the organic egg and poultry industry and what organic consumer have come to expect from organic.

Read the white paper here.

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