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Organic association suggests Perdue Farms’ petition needs some work



Organic association suggests Perdue Farms' petition needs some work

Perdue Farms LLC filed a petition with the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) in March 2023 requesting that the agency conduct a rulemaking process to define separate “free-range” and “pastured” claims for meat and poultry products.

In the more than a year since it was filed, the Perdue Farms petition has received more comments than any other petition, most of which were in favor of accepting the petition.

The petition also requests that FSIS update its guidance on living/parenting conditions claims to ensure that the claims align with consumer expectations. It is under consideration by the FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development.

The latest to speak out is the Organic Trade Association (OTA) with comments asking FSIS for more work before acting on Perdue Farms’ petition.

“OTA believes there is a need for greater clarity and consistency in industry use and consumer understanding of the terms free-range and grazing,” the group said in recently filed comments. “From our long history of advocating for continuous improvement in organic standards, OTA understands the importance of clear and consistent standards and the challenges a market faces when they are inadequate or absent.

“For years, OTA and the organic industry have been asking for more explicit animal welfare standards to ensure that the USDA organic seal reflects consumer expectations about how organic meat, dairy and eggs are produced. We applaud the final rule of the USDA’s Organic Livestock Production Standards, published late last year, which codifies and makes consistent many of the practices already in place in the organic livestock industry, giving organic consumers even more confidence that their understanding of what the seal represents is correct. can really be found on the farm.

“By moving forward with the petition, OTA encourages FSIS’s work within the USDA programs to ensure regulatory consistency and pre-existing reference definitions, and to ensure that each definition is inclusive of manufacturing practices for all species and industrial segments (broilers, laying hens, dairy cattle, beef cattle, etc.),” it adds. “Such collaboration will ensure that existing consumer expectations and understanding are maintained. In particular, we point to the long-standing definition of pasture in the USDA organic regulations at 7 CFR Part 205.2, and the grazing practice standard at 7 CFR Part 205.240.”

The OTA comment letter ends with:

“As noted, organic consumers have an existing expectation regarding access to pasture and what this means for animal welfare. This expectation and trust is rooted in the third-party organic certification process, a verification that is central to USDA organic regulations. Just as organic claims are supported by transparent audits of production facilities, FSIS should work across all USDA programs to support every definition and claim with a similar audit system to ensure consumers get what they pay for.”

“Finally, we recommend that FSIS provide and facilitate a broader opportunity for all interested producers and consumers to comment on this petition. We believe that advance notice of proposed rulemaking is a proven mechanism to facilitate this dialogue. As FSIS takes on this or any other rulemaking, OTA looks forward to engaging with our members to further inform this process.”

Commenters submitted in 2024 on the Perdue Farms petition include Leaping Bear Farm, Primal Pastures, Walden Local Inc., A Greener World, Shady Grove Ranch and five members of Congress,

Last year’s 2023 commenters included Organic Valley, The Food Industry Association, Vital Farms, Warmte Farms, The Cornucopia Institute, Joe’s Farm, the American Grass-fed Association, Farm Forward, the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association, Compassion in World Farming United Egg Association and the Animal Welfare Institute.

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