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Organic Animal Welfare Standards

The trade assocaition, along with thousands of organic stakeholders and consumers, urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to swiftly implement a final Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) rule – strengthening organic animal welfare standards is long overdue and critical for the sustainability of family farms, the advancement of organic, and continued consumer trust in the USDA Organic seal. 

USDA published the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) proposed rule on August 9, 2022 in response to years of industry advocacy in response to years of industry advocacy and a lawsuit filed by OTA The rule was open for comment through November 10, 2022 and drew overwhelming public support. Initial analysis shows that out of the nearly 40,000 posted comments, a huge 89 percent marjority are in favor of this regulation being finalized and implemented. The rule would ensure that organic animals have true outdoor access and close regulatory loopholes that have led to uneven animal welfare standards and unfair conditions for organic farmers who are already raising their birds by the highest organic practices. 

The comments OTA submitted were highly representative of the organic poultry industry. The were informed and supprted by feedback from 579 organic poultry operations producing some 90 million organic chickens and 10 accrredited certifiers that certify more than 1,500 poultry operations. Read the full press release

OTA's OLPS Final Comments 

What's next? OTA to keep the pressure on 

USDA will now review all submitted comments before finalizing and publishing the final rule. There is no time limit under which USDA has to complete the process, but OTA will be monitoring the agency's progress closely. 

“USDA has taken a significant step forward in finally clarifying key organic animal welfare regulations. The Organic Trade Association will keep the pressure on to make sure this new regulation is put into place. Now it is time for the department to swiftly implement these long overdue rules, as the organic community and the public clearly support.” – OTA CEO Tom Chapman 

What’s at Stake?

Health and competitiveness of family farms – inconsistent animal welfare standards for organic chickens create an unlevel playing field for organic farmers already providing true outdoor access.

Advancement of organic animal welfare – 75% of Americans are either very or somewhat concerned about the treatment of animals by the meat and dairy industry.

Consumer trust and integrity of the organic label – 89% of Americans say the USDA should periodically review and update the organic standards to keep pace with new science and consumer expectations.

What's in the Rule? 

OLPS clarifies the production standards of avian and mammalian livestock as authorized by OFPA to support consistent enforcement across producers and alleviate market failure by assuring consumers that USDA-certified organic livestock products meet a robust and uniform standard. The proposed rule:  

  • Establishes poultry indoor and outdoor space requirements and stocking density limits. Enclosed porches are not considered outdoor spaces. 
  • Clarifies living conditions, healthcare, transportation and slaughter practices to support animal welfare for mammalian livestock species. 
  • Acknowledges that current conditions are causing consumer confusion and market failure. 
  • Adopts the position that the Organic Foods Production Act provides the requisite authority for regulations regarding livestock and poultry health care practices and living conditions – including regulations regarding animal welfare. 

“After 20 years stuck in limbo, organic animal welfare reforms are finally back on the agenda at USDA,” says OTA CEO & Executive Director Tom Chapman. “The Organic Trade Association welcomes the release of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards proposed rule, which will level the playing field for organic producers and raise the bar so that the highest standard of care becomes the baseline.”

Read the full press release

NOP’s OLPS Website

OLPS 2022 Proposed Rule Summary OLPS 2022 Proposed Rule Full Text 


Organic livestock and poultry producers have been clamoring for more robust animal welfare standards for nearly 20 years – almost as long as the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) has existed. The current USDA National Organic Program regulations require that all certified organic operations give their animals “access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight.” Unfortunately, these regulations have not been consistently enforced, resulting in some large companies utilizing narrow, enclosed porches for poultry instead of true outdoor access to meet this requirement.

After years of public engagement in the rulemaking process, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) in 2017, only for it to be abruptly rescinded by the Trump Administration. In response, OTA filed a lawsuit against USDA (ongoing). In response to the lawsuit and continued pressure from the organic industry, USDA  published the new proposed version of this rule – the Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) – and is currently reviewing all comments submitted before finalizing and publishing the rule. 

Animal Welfare Regulation History


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Animal Welfare Regulation History


1995 – 2000 │ NOSB releases recommendations on animal welfare

2002 │ Organic regulations are implemented that include healthcare practices, outdoor access and living condition requirements for livestock

2002 │ A sustained appeals decision results in inconsistent application of the outdoor access standards for organic poultry

2010 │ USDA OIG releases an audit identifying inconsistencies in outdoor space for organic livestock

2011 │ NOSB adopts a set of recommendations to define further, clarify and incorporate production practices for organic livestock to advance animal welfare

2016 │ USDA releases Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices (OLPP) proposed rule

2017 │(Jan.) USDA issues final OLPP rule

2017 │(Feb.) Trump administration delays the effective date of the OLPP final rule

2017 │(Sep.) OTA files a lawsuit against USDA for failure to put the new organic livestock standards in effect

2018 │ USDA withdraws the OLPP regulation

2021 │ Biden administration indicates their interest in reconsidering OLPP and plans a new rulemaking process

2022 │ USDA releases new Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) proposed rule



Johanna Mirenda
Farm Policy Director
(202) 812-7704