Just recently, an amazing new policy was proposed- Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices. This policy would ensure that companies using the USDA Organic label refer to “humane “ treatment of animals. Yes, more work needs to be done before the standards require 100% humane treatment, but it is far better than what is required now.
Some of the new standards include:
A minimum space requirement per pound of chicken to reduce crowding.
Actual outdoor access (some “organic” producers just use chain link fences to expose chickens to outdoors, without allowing them out.)
Maximum ammonia concentration.
Banning of physical alteration of animals (debeaking, cropping tails…)
Already, organic animals must have no more than 70% of their diet grain-based (and 100% non-GMO) and have no antibiotics unless prescribed by a veterinarian, which results in them being removed from the organic farm.
When people buy organic, it is usually assumed that the organic animal products came from animals treated humanely, but right now the rules are to general and vague to ensure this. A lot of producers have to pay extra money to get accredited by other organizations, such as Animal Welfare ones, to identify themselves from other organic producers, with cruel practices. This makes those products cost more, and since consumers rarely know about these outer accreditations, they might not see them or just ignore them, going to the lower-priced product.
There is a lot of confusion when it comes to food labeling. For example, on eggs, there is: cage-free, organic, free-range or free-roaming, and pasture-raised (referring to the “layers,” who are a specific breed of chicken). Cage-free chickens don't live in cages like in most factory-farms, and have enough space to exhibit natural behaviors like nesting. However, they have no outdoor access whatsoever (not even through chain link) and may be starved, debeaked, and forced to molt their feathers.
Free-range and free-roaming, pasture-raised, and organic chickens have the same treatment (including allowed physical alteration), except they have outdoor access in some form. Only organic chickens have a lack of antibiotics and GMOs in their bodies. As you can see, it takes Animal Welfare accreditations to ensure humanness, even if these mentioned labels sound enticing.
What's upsetting is that the new USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, who used to be a veterinarian, decided to delay and possibly later cancel the new standards for the organic label. I don't know why, but the commenting period ended June 9th. I sent a letter to the secretary to address my concern beyond leaving my comment and political cartoon on Regulations.com. I hope to see results.