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USA: New organic standards exempt beef cattle from pasture

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

According to the USDA's new organic pasture rule, released in February 2010, pasture grazing is required in organic dairy production, but organic beef cattle may be exempt from obtaining any of their feed from pasture during the last four months of their lives. The rule states that organic producers must "maintain all ruminant animals on pasture," but, in an apparent contradiction, may simultaneously also utilize "dry lots, yards or feedlots" for grain finishing of slaughter stock, such as beef cattle, during the last 120 days or one-fifth of the animal's life, whichever is shorter. During these 120 days, these organic animals are exempt from the requirement to obtain at least 30 % dry matter intake (DMI) from pasture.

The USDA is seeking comments as to whether or not the current language should be strengthened or weakened. The final determination on this language will more clearly define how organic beef is produced. A comprehensive analysis of this issue can be found here. To gain a deeper understanding of current practices in the organic beef industry, Cornucopia surveyed organic beef producers from across the nation. Results of the survey revealed that 80 % of organic beef producers graze their beef cattle on pasture until slaughter, never confining them to a feedlot. In fact, 60 % of organic beef producers never feed any grain to their cattle (100 % grass-fed), while 20 % maintain their cattle on pasture but provide small amounts of grain. The new rule's exemption for ruminant slaughter stock from obtaining feed from pasture is therefore not needed by the vast majority of organic beef producers.

While the exemption, allowing organic beef producers to use feedlots for grain finishing, has been published in the final rule, the NOP is accepting comments until April 19 from organic beef and other ruminant producers and the general public. The Cornucopia Institute urges both organic producers and consumers to share their thoughts with the USDA before the April 19 deadline, including expressing their support for a three-tiered labeling system. More information is available here



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