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USDA Proposes Rule Requiring All Organic Poultry To Have Outdoor Access

USDA Proposes Rule Requiring All Organic Poultry To Have Outdoor Access

By Brooke Chmura

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Tuesday proposed a rule that would require all poultry, particularly egg-laying chickens, labeled as “organic” to have access to the outdoors. Currently, organic chicken farmers are required to provide outdoor spaces for the animals. However, the USDA reports that farming practices for organic layers varies. Some farmers have large open-air outdoor spaces, and other farmers have screened enclosures that provide minimal outdoor space. This variance causes confusion for consumers about what the USDA organic label means.

To address this risk in loss of consumer confidence, the rule would clarify the discrepancy so that the definition of “outdoor space” does not include screened enclosures. Rather, the amended definition would read “any area outside of an enclosed building or enclosed housing structure, but including roofed areas that are not enclosed.” Thus, when picking out an organic carton of eggs, consumers will know that the chickens who laid those eggs had access to open-air space, not just a screened-in porch.

Although the focus of the rule is on organic poultry, it also proposes new requirements for the housing, handling, transport and slaughtering of avian and mammalian livestock species. Public comment remains open on the rule until October 11, 2022.

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