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Organic Poultry Production in the United States


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Organic Poultry Production in the United States

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Organic Poultry Production in the United States

  1. 1. Organic Poultry ProductionATTRA in the United States A Publication of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Anne Fanatico, Ph.D. In organic poultry production systems, birds are raised without cages in housing that allows outdoorNCAT Agriculture access, are fed organic feed and managed with proactive practices and natural treatments. This pub-Specialist lication discusses organic husbandry including living conditions, health, genetics and origin, feed and© 2008 NCAT processing as specified under the livestock requirements of the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program.ContentsIntroduction ..................... 1Living conditions andhousing .............................. 2Health ................................. 4Origin of birds andgenetics ............................. 6Feed .................................... 7Processing ......................... 8Recordkeeping ................ 9Economics......................... 9Resources ........................ 10References ...................... 10Appendix: Highlights ofthe Organic PoultryPrograms ......................... 11 Photo by Sergio Venturi. Courtesy of stock.xchng, Introduction and maximizing production through weight gain, feed efficiency and more Organic refers to the way livestock and (Sundrum, 2006). agricultural products are raised andATTRA – National Sustainable processed, avoiding agrichemicals such Since USDA established the NationalAgriculture Information Service ismanaged by the National Center for as synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Organic Program in 2002, the organicAppropriate Technology (NCAT) Although non-chemical farming is a food market has grown by almost 20and is funded under a grantfrom the U.S. Department of good working defi nition, avoiding syn- percent annually. The organic meat indus-Agriculture’s Rural Business- thetic inputs is just one feature. Organic try is a relatively young one, althoughCooperative Service. Visit theNCAT Web site ( production focuses on animal health and organic production has been practicedsarc_current.php) for welfare, good environmental practices and for decades in the United States. Thismore information onour sustainable agri- product quality. In contrast, conventional publication is written for U.S. producersculture projects. production focuses on reducing costs who are complying with the NOP.
  2. 2. Living conditions and housing Basic requirements for organic Housing should protect birds from the poultry include: elements, maintain a comfortable tem- perature, provide ventilation and clean • Appropriate housing that permits natural behavior, including outdoor bedding and allow birds to exercise and access conduct natural behaviors. Cages are not permitted. In addition, the birds must have • Certified organic feed, including access to the outdoors for exercise areas, pastureRelated ATTRA fresh air and sunlight and must be ablePublications • No antibiotics, drugs or synthetic to scratch and dustbath. Combining free- parasiticides ranging poultry with ruminant productionATTRA materials • Organic processing of meat and eggs can help manage the forage for the poul-provide informationon best practices in try and reduce mowing for the producer. • Recordkeeping system to allow trackingsustainable poultry Shelters such as pastured poultry pens or of poultry and products (audit trail)production. Many field pens are questionable because theypractices can also be • Organic system plan including descrip- may not provide adequate housing orused in organic tion of practices to prevent contami- permit birds to express natural behavior nation, monitoring practices and listproduction. due to confi nement. The NOP does not of inputs• Alternative Poultry specify if ponds are required for water- Production Systems • Production that does not contribute to fowl; check with your certifier. and Outdoor Access, contamination of soil or water which covers using The NOP does not specify indoor or outdoor • No genetically modified organisms, cage-free systems stocking densities, but many organic certi- ionizing radiation or sewage sludge and outdoor access fiers look for a lower stocking rate than the• Poultry House industry average of 0.7 square feet (0.07 Management square meters) per bird. Most look for at for Alternative The NOP regulations are available on the least 1.5 square feet (0.14 square meters) Production, which Internet at The per bird. There is no limit on the number covers housing, regulations are broken down into subparts, of birds that may be raised in one house; ventilation, tem- and subpart C deals with crops, livestock nor is there a requirement for the amount perature, lighting, and handling. Sections 205.236 through of bird exits or popholes that should be litter management, 205.239 deal specifically with livestock, provided. The NOP also does not specify rodent control including poultry. If you do not have Inter- the amount of outdoor access a bird should and more net access or would like a hard copy of the have. Organic programs in other countries• Organic Farm regulations, contact the National Organic have details on these issues to limit the size Certification and the Program. Information is listed in the and density of flocks. National Organic Resources section. Section 205.600 is the Program, which Livestock and poultry may be temporarily National List of Allowed and Prohibited includes general confi ned for inclement weather, the stage information about Substances and lists synthetic substances of production, conditions under which the organic certification that can be used in organic production and health, safety or well-being of the animal• NCAT’s Organic a few natural substances that may not. could be jeopardized or if the animals being Livestock Work- outside could pose a risk to soil or water book, which quality. Chicks, poults and other young includes details about organic This document provides guidance on how birds are normally confined during brood- organic certifying agencies normally inter- ing when they need to be heated, although livestock pret the NOP livestock standards for poultry production production. However, it is important that outdoor access can be provided at a young producers talk to their accredited certifying age. Birds can be confined during cold agencies about specific interpretations. The weather, although some breeds are hardy producer’s organic system plan describes and venture outdoors in cold weather. many specific practices. Organic pullets are often not provided out- door access until they are ready to lay, atPage 2 ATTRA Organic Poultry Production in the United States
  3. 3. about 20 weeks. Many producers have bios- for poultry, see ATTRA’s Alternative Poultryecurity concerns with outdoor access and Production Systems and Outdoor Access.use the argument that vaccines need suf- Artificial lighting is permitted but there areficient time to create immunity; however, limits on its use. Although the NOP has nolong periods are not required. Immunity specific requirements on lighting, many cer-generally develops a week or so after the tifiers look for an eight-hour dark period,fi rst boost. The last round of vaccines, usu- because a dark period is needed to main-ally at 16 to 18 weeks, is intended to main- tain the immune system and for good birdtain lasting titers to protect the flock during welfare. When managing layers and breed-lay. Outdoor access is not likely to interfere, ers, the lighting period shouldn’t be longeralthough many producers are concerned than 16 hours or the longest day of the year.about biosecurity and their vets may order Many certifiers require a relatively highno outdoor access. In addition, the light level of light in the house to encourage birdperiod is carefully managed for pullets to activity and may require windows in orderdelay egg production until sufficient matu- to provide direct sunlight. In contrast, therity exists for proper egg size. conventional industry usually keeps lightsAll-slat flooring is generally not permitted. low for broilers to reduce activity. The lightSome flooring should be solid with litter so level is so low that it is difficult to read abirds can scratch. If birds are likely to eat newspaper. Some welfare assurance pro-their litter, it should be organic. Most poul- grams require at least two footcandles oftry litter is not. Although litter treatments light intensity (Humane Farm Animal Care,are common in conventional production to 2008).lower pH and reduce microbial growth and For rodent, fly and other pest control, aammonia production, in organic production multilevel approach is used and beginslitter amendments are not as common. Any with prevention and sanitation includingamendment must be natural. For example, habitat reduction and physical exclusionsynthetic materials, such as the commer- from facilities and feed. Secondly, controlcially available Poultry Litter Treatment can include mechanical and physical meth-(sodium bisulfite), are not permitted. Some ods such as tarps, electric fences, adhesivesmall producers use hydrated lime to lower and fans; and thirdly it can include naturalmoisture in litter. Although hydrated lime is or allowed synthetic rodenticides such aspermitted in organic livestock production, cholecalciferol and sulfur dioxide as anhydrated lime is only permitted for exter- underground smoke bomb. ATTRA cannal pest control. Adequate nestboxes andperches are needed for laying birds.Producers must not allow lumber treatedwith arsenate or other prohibited sub-stances for new installations or replace-ment to be in contact with animals. Exist-ing treated lumber is handled differently bycertifying agencies; some require removalor a barrier, while others permit it if it doesnot impact livestock. See ATTRA’s OrganicAlternatives to Treated Lumber for informa-tion on alternate lumber options.Poultry should be protected from predators,both indoors and outdoors. Electric fencescan exclude ground predators and keeppoultry where desired. For more informa-tion on fencing and managing outdoor areas Electronet fence to protect birds from predators. Photo by Anne Fanatico, ATTRA Page 3
  4. 4. provide additional information on natural Vaccines are allowed in organic production to rodent control. prevent disease. Interestingly, vaccines may be genetically engineered, a practice that is In terms of waste, the producer must man- otherwise not permitted in organic produc- age waste in a way that does not contribute tion. This information appears in section to environmental contamination and opti- 205.104(e) of the NOP Final Rule. Poultry mizes recycling of nutrients. Although poul- vaccines are commonly used in the United try litter and manure have nutrients that are very useful for crop and pasture produc- States to prevent Marek’s disease, Newcastle, tion, producers must be careful not to apply infectious bronchitis and coccidiosis. manure to land that is already too high in Probiotics are often used in organic poultry nitrogen or phosphorus. production, particularly to replace antibiotic Also, because raw manure cannot come growth promoters, which are not permit- into contact with organic crops ready for ted. Probiotics are beneficial microbes, fed harvest and human consumption, poul- to birds to establish beneficial gut micro- try may not be grazed with crops within flora, reducing colonization by pathogenic 90 days of harvest or 120 days if a har- organisms such as Salmonella and E. coli.V accines are vestable crop part contacts soil. However, This mechanism is called competitive exclu- manure or other waste that is composted sion because beneficial microorganisms are allowed in competing with pathogenic ones for nutri- according to NOP specifications does not organic have these harvest restrictions. The NOP ents and attachment areas in the gut. Otherproduction to has additional guidelines for other heat- natural products include prebiotics, whichprevent disease. processed animal manure products online are nondigestible food ingredients that ben- at efit the host by selectively stimulating the NOP5006ProcessedManure7-16-07.pdf growth of bacterial species present in the gut. An example is lactose, which is used Also see ATTRA’s Manures for Organic Crop by beneficial lactic acid bacteria in the gut Production. but cannot be digested by chickens. Other prebiotics include fructo-oligosaccharides, Health inulin and lactulose, which alter the micro- Proactive health management is used in bial balance in favor of beneficial bacteria organic production. A working relationship (Novak and Troche, 2006). Manno-oligas- with an avian veterinarian is an integral accharides appear to have a different mech- part of health management and an animal anism that prevents pathogenic bacteria health plan is often part of the Organic Sys- from adhering to the gut lining. tem Plan. The NOP emphasizes that drugs, growth Provide adequate housing and space, ven- promotants and synthetic parasiticides are tilation and good nutrition to reduce stress not permitted, but natural materials can be and maintain the immune system. Prevent used. However, no materials in violation of the introduction of disease with the use of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act vaccines and biosecurity practices. Use nat- should be used. Examples of natural treat- ural treatments if needed. ments include enzymes, antioxidants, pyre- thrum for controlling mites and botanicals such as garlic and oregano. Preventing disease starts with clean birds. Antibiotics and other medical treatment must If you purchase birds or eggs, make sure not be withheld if needed, and these birds they are from breeding flocks approved by should be diverted to nonorganic markets. the USDA National Poultry Improvement Program, which certifies flocks are free of Mortality may be higher in large-scale certain diseases. organic production than conventional production because medications are not per- mitted. Necrotic enteritis is a common healthPage 4 ATTRA Organic Poultry Production in the United States
  5. 5. problem in large organic broiler flocks. In External parasites such as mites shouldfact, broiler mortality may be 5 to 10 percent be managed by allowing birds to dust-in organic production. Organic layer flocks bathe. Many producers also add diatoma-may have 3- to 5-percent mortality rate. ceous earth to dustbaths. If mite treatmentGood biosecurity and sanitation practices is needed, pyrethrum is a natural prod-should be followed on the farm, including uct that is permitted in organic produc-limiting visitor access to the bird area. Sun- tion. For roost mites that do not actuallylight and dry conditions help reduce patho- live on birds themselves, the roosts, cracksgens in outdoor areas and footbaths with and crevices in the house should also beapproved disinfectants, such as iodine, can treated. Natural oils, such as linseed oil,be used at the entrance to houses, as well are often used on disposable booties or dedicated footwear. Incidence of internal parasites, such asThe use of “all-in, all-out” management(completely harvesting a flock before starting roundworms, cecal worms and capillarya new one) results in the reduction of patho- worms, can be a problem in organic poul-gens, many of which die during the down- try production and has been the focus oftime. Mixing ages in a flock is a risk because scientific studies (Permin et al., 1999 andolder birds may be carriers of disease for Thamsborg et al., 1999). Rotating access toyounger birds. Likewise, mixing species can different outdoor areas is key in reducingresult in some species carrying diseases to incidence of internal parasites. Anticoccid-other species. See the biosecurity and sanita- ial medications are not permitted for con-tion sidebars for more information. trol of the protozoan parasite coccidiosis; Sanitation Biosecurity Sanitation between flocks is particularly Good biosecurity is important in any poultry operation and particularly in important and a downtime of two to three organic operations. Since wild birds, particularly waterfowl, can carry dis- weeks will help control pathogens that need eases that harm domestic poultry, it is important to exclude wild waterfowl a host to survive. Cleaning is the first step from the free-range poultry area. Outdoor feeders should not attract wild because organic matter must be removed in birds. For example, a self-feeder dispenses feed to poultry on demand. order for a disinfectant to work. First sweep See the Solway Feeders Web site at for examples or air-blow the house from top to bottom of self-feed dispensers. If necessary, netting can be placed over outdoor to remove organic matter, and then spray yards. The USDA’s Biosecurity for the Birds Web site at www.aphis.usda. the house with a high-pressure sprayer and gov/vs/birdbiosecurity/ has information on biosecurity. Although highly detergent. Rinse and allow to dry, and then pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza is not currently in the United States, there apply disinfectant. Approved materials that is concern that wild waterfowl may carry various types of avian influenza are used for disinfection and sanitation of to free-range flocks. See ATTRA’s Avian Influenza in Free-Range and Organic premises and equipment include chlorine Poultry Production for more information. materials, iodine, hydrogen peroxide, per- Physical alterations are allowed if they are essential for animal welfare and acetic acid, phosphoric acid and organic done in a manner that minimizes pain. However, physical alterations should acids. Hydrogen peroxide is particularly cor- not be done on a routine basis. Beak trimming in particular is a controversial rosive to metal and should be rinsed well. practice performed on layers to reduce feather pecking. Feather pecking Iodine may stain surfaces. Alcohol is also a is a concern in cage-free and organic poultry production because of large disinfectant but not very effective. Propane- group sizes. Feather pecking is an indicator of stress in the perpetrator and fueled heat tools are also used to disinfect. In the victim and can lead to cannibalism. Beak-trimming is only permitted addition, water lines need regular care. Water if other methods of prevention fail. See the sidebar on preventing feather lines can be flushed with organic acids, such pecking for more information. Most welfare programs require that beak as citric acid or vinegar, to loosen debris, and trimming be done before 10 days of age with a humane method such as then sanitized with iodine or hydrogen per- a hot blade or infrared. No more than 50 percent of the beak should be oxide between flocks. Chlorine is also used trimmed, as measured from beak tip to nostril (Kuenzel, 2007). for routine sanitation of water lines when birds are in the house. Chlorine level should Ideally, animals should be able to breed without human intervention, but not be more than 4 ppm. artificial insemination is allowed by the ATTRA Page 5
  6. 6. should provide a molt diet and should pro- Preventing feather pecking vide a light period of at least eight hours. Prevention of feather pecking begins early, when rearing the pullets. The NOP does not have specific standards on In a Dutch study, researchers Monique Bestman and Jan-Paul Wage- forced molting, but generally certifiers do not naar (2006) found pullets that feather peck during rearing will con- tinue to feather peck as layers. However, pullets that do not feather permit it due to stress to the bird. Organic peck during rearing will not later. Pullets need to be raised on litter producers usually destroy or process the (not in cages), have perches and a low stocking density. Flocks that flock at about 70 weeks, although small pro- feather pecked were at a density of 35 chicks per square meter (3.2 ducers may let birds molt naturally. chicks per square foot), while flocks that did not feather peck were at only 22 chicks per square meter (two chicks per square foot) during Natural molting is not as efficient as forced the first four weeks of life. molting, but it maintains bird welfare and Other risk factors that led to feather pecking included the use of slat floor- extends the productive life of the layer ing during the first weeks of life (no litter), absence of perches and no (fewer layers are needed over time). Ideally, grain scattered for a pecking incentive. Bestman and Wagenaar quoted layers should be allowed to molt naturally the 1955 work of German scientist Dr. Erich Bäeumer, who said: and kept for at least two to three years. “during the first weeks of life, a pullet learns to eat … they will peck at every- Although the welfare of the bird is a cor- thing in order to find out what is edible and what not. If their environment nerstone of organic poultry production, wel- consists mainly of flock mates, the chance is big they start pecking at their flock mates’ plumage.” fare assurance programs, such as Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) and American Hanging roughage or providing it in baskets also helps reduce feather Humane Association (AHA), have measur- pecking and birds learn to peck at different levels. If pullets are reared by an organic pullet specialist, the producer should ensure these prac- able standards and can document that birds tices have been followed so that the layers producers buy are less likely have adequate access to feed and water, to feather peck. have good litter and air quality, that care- takers are trained, handling and euthanasia methods are humane and more. Birds are particularly stressed during catching, trans- therefore many producers focus on manage- port and processing. ment or the use of a vaccine. See ATTRA’s Food safety in organic poultry production is Parasite Management for Natural and an area of interest. Some studies have shown Organic Poultry Production: Coccidiosis for that food-borne diseases are more prevalent more information. in organic livestock production than conven- Molting is a natural process that birds tional. In a Danish study, campylobacter was undergo annually to renew their feathers. found in all 22 organic broiler flocks com- Molting can help replenish the reproduc- pared to only one-third of conventional broiler tive systems and bones of layers. Molt usu- flocks (Heuer et al., 2001). Organic birds ally takes several weeks and egg produc- are generally kept longer than conventional tion declines or ceases. A flock of the same and have more opportunity to encounter age and origin will molt about the same pathogens. In contrast, Lunangtongkum et time, although there may be some variation al. (2006) found that campylobacter bacte- among individuals in the length of molt. ria developed resistance to fluoroquinolones, Force-molting is a way to induce the layers a group of antibiotics important in human in a flock to molt at a particular time and at health, in 46 percent of conventionally raised a faster rate. Molt can be forced by reducing chickens and 67 percent of conventional the nutrient density of the diet and reducing turkeys, but only 2 percent of the organically the light period. raised chickens and turkeys. In conventional layer operations, layers are destroyed or processed at about 70 weeks of Origin of birds and genetics age or they are force-molted and then, after The NOP stipulates that breeds should be laying begins again, kept until about 105 chosen for their resistance to disease and weeks of age. If producers force-molt, they their appropriateness to a site or operation.Page 6 ATTRA Organic Poultry Production in the United States
  7. 7. However, in the United States high-yield-ing genetics are typically used in both con-ventional and organic poultry production.The conventional broiler is an effi cientbird that grows to market weight in sevenweeks and has a high yield of breast meat.However, it may have health problems dueto the fast growth. Metabolic problemsinclude ascites (water belly) and suddendeath syndrome, and leg problems includelameness. In contrast, slow-growing meatbirds are used in the European Unionorganic program. Although slow-growingbirds are less effi cient meat producers,they have better livability, lower mortalityrates and are more active. In terms of egglayers, high-yielding birds lay more than300 eggs per year but may develop osteo-porosis or brittle bones. There is increas- Medium-growing alternative genetics. Photo by Anne Fanatico, interest in using standard breeds withhistorical significance, known as heritage Feedbreeds, for organic production, but heri-tage breeds have only been selected for Feed rations must provide the levels ofegg production or exhibition for the last nutrients (protein, energy, minerals andseveral decades and good utility strains vitamins) appropriate to the type of bird,for meat need to be developed. For more breed and age or stage of development.information on genetics, see ATTRA’s Typically, organic corn is used for energy,Poultry Genetics for Pastured Production. while organic soybeans provide protein. Roasted, extruded or expelled soybeans areThe NOP does not require the origin of used because feeds that have been defat-the birds to be organic. In fact, there are ted with chemical solvents are not permit-currently no certified organic poultry ted. In cold areas, wheat and peas are oftenhatcheries in the United States. Nonorganic used for energy and protein, respectively.chicks may be used but must be under No animal drugs or antibiotics are allowedorganic management after the second day in organic feed. Nor can feed from genet-after hatching. ically modified crops be used. Although chickens are omnivores in nature, animal slaughter byproducts are not permitted in feed in organic production. The feed must be organic, including pas- ture and forage. Therefore, any pasture used for organic poultry should be free of synthetic chemicals for three years before it can be used. Organic seed must be used when seeding pastures and weeds should be managed with cultural practices rather than synthetic chemicals. If organic hay is har- vested for poultry, it should be stored sepa-Slow-growing naked neck genetics. Photo by Anne rately from conventional hay. If grains areFanatico, NCAT. sprouted for poultry or roughage ATTRA Page 7
  8. 8. during temporary confi nement, it must be as ethoxyquine cannot be added to preserve organic. Organic feeds are very expensive fishmeal. As a reminder, feed additives and compared to conventional. supplements cannot be from genetically According to the NOP Web site, feed may modified organisms. also contain natural, nonagricultural feed If poultry feed is raised on-farm, crop pro- additives and supplements or approved syn- duction must comply with the organic pro- thetic substances that are allowed by the duction standards for crops. This informa- National List, which basically allows trace tion is in sections 205-202 to 205.206 of minerals and vitamins, as well as some the NOP Final Rule. Handled feed must inerts and excipients. Feed additives and comply with organic handling requirements supplements must comply with the Federal or the feed must be from a certified organic Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. feed mill. This is outlined in sections To further clarify, feed additives such as 205.270 to 205.272 of the NOP. For more vitamins and minerals are used in micro information on organic feed processing, see amounts to fulfi ll a specific nutritional need. NCAT’s Organic Livestock Workbook. However, synthetic amino acids are not per- Water should be from a clean source and mitted in organic production, although syn- may need to be tested for fecal coliform thetic methionine is permitted for a limited bacteria and nitrates. Water chlorination time for poultry. See the sidebar on synthetic must not be above accepted levels of 4 ppm methionine for more information. Feed sup- in the United States. plements, such as fi shmeal, enzymes and oyster shell, are permitted in larger amounts to improve the nutrient balance. The fish- Processing meal does not have to be organic because it If meat or eggs are processed on-farm, the is a natural substance used as a feed supple- processing must comply with the organic ment. However, prohibited substances such handling standards. This information appears in sections 205.270 to 205.272 of the NOP Final Rule. If the meat or eggs are Synthetic methionine handled off-farm, the processing plant must Methionine is the only synthetic amino acid permitted in organic live- be certified organic. stock production and only for poultry on a temporary basis. Synthetic methionine is added to virtually all commercial poultry diets; however, Processing plants that are that already com- it will be banned after October 2010 under the NOP. Although some plying with federal or state regulations are feedstuffs are naturally high in methionine, such as fishmeal and corn usually not difficult to certify as organic. gluten meal, there is a lack in organic form. There is no organic corn glu- Important points include using approved ten meal and only limited fishmeal without prohibited preservatives. In organic detergents and sanitizers and pest addition, some companies market their poultry products as “veg-fed” control methods, preventing contamina- and therefore don’t use fishmeal and other animal products. tion and preventing commingling with non- Supplying sufficient methionine to birds with plant proteins such as organic products. Good recordkeeping is soybeans or sunflower meal results in diets that are excessive in over- important for the audit trail. Organic is usu- all protein that is hard on birds (causing heat stress, excreting exces- ally the first run of the day if plants also pro- sive nitrogen and more) and the environment (excess nitrogen and cesses nonorganic products. Operations that ammonia emissions). Innovative protein sources such as algae, earth- worm or insect meal are of interest. Some literature suggests the use compost offal and apply it to organic fields of alternative genetics that are lower-yielding; however, research at or pastures should follow NOP requirements the University of Arkansas (Fanatico et al., 2006; Fanatico et al., 2007) for compost and manure management. has not shown slow-growing meat birds to have lower methionine requirements. The report Possibilities and Limitations of Protein Sup- Sanitizers that may be used in organic poul- ply in Organic Poultry and Pig Production provides a comprehensive try meat processing facilities to sanitize European perspective as the European Union is also dealing with the facilities and equipment are more limited same problem. It is available at than in conventional operations and include Report_EC_Revision.pdf. chlorine materials, hydrogen peroxide, per- acetic acid, phosphoric acid and organicPage 8 ATTRA Organic Poultry Production in the United States
  9. 9. acids. See the Organic Materials ReviewInstitute’s brand name lists online at for products that are permitted.Some certifiers permit highly chlorinatedwater to come in contact with food productsin immersion chilling and for sanitizing sur-faces, but the fi nal rinse should be with achlorine level less than the limit under theSafe Drinking Water Act (or 4 ppm). Forchill tank water, some organic poultry pro-cessors use no additives at all in the chilltank; others use hydrogen peroxide or inno-vative technologies such as ozonated water.Post-chill antimicrobial dip and spray are ofinterest. Shell egg detergents and sanitizersshould also be NOP compliant. Organic eggs should be handled according to NOP handling requirements.Recordkeeping Photo by Rex Dufour, NCAT.Recordkeeping is an important process inthe organic audit trail to document that the often higher. Laborstandards have been followed. Flocks must may be increased andbe identified and records kept for stock, recordkeeping maymaterial and feed purchases; all health be an added expense,treatments and other inputs; weight of along with certificationslaughter animals; slaughter; packing and fees. However, organichandling; sales and more. Records should poultry products bringbe kept for at least five years. Split produc- a premium price. Seetion is permitted and since organic poultry ATTRA’s Growing Yourand eggs products are indistinguishable Range Poultry Business:visually from conventional, it is important An Entrepreneur’s Tool-to prevent comingling. box for a discussion of expenses and income Slow-growing turkeys cooling in air-chilled room.Small producers that sell less than $5,000 for alternative poultry Photo by Anne Fanatico, NCAT.worth of organic products each year are meat production sys-exempt from certification. If small produc- tems and small-scale processing. Also seeers want to call or label their product organic the following:they must follow the standards but do notneed to be certified, although they may not • Case study of organic egg econom-use the USDA organic seal. Their eggs can ics on a small Wisconsin farm,not be sold as organic ingredients. shop/0303/umoc.shtmlEconomics • A 5,000 bird layer flock in Canada,It is more expensive to raise organic poultry conventional poultry due to feed costs, budget_pdf/poultry/organic_eggs_lower stocking densities, the cost of provid- 2002.pdfing outdoor access and health costs without • Organic Broiler Chicken Productionthe use of antibiotics in intensively produced Trial, Allee Farm, 2001, www.flocks. If there is a longer growing period, 2001reports/feed efficiency may decrease. Mortality is nwallee/ ATTRA Page 9
  10. 10. Resources thermophilic Campylobacter in organic and conven- tional broiler flocks. Letters in Applied MicrobiologyATTRA maintains farmer-friendly information on farming on its Web site; Humane Farm Animal Care. 2008. Broilers. Animalalso see the Sustainable Poultry Web site Care Standards. Herndon, VA. org/pdfs/ChickensBroilersStd.pdf. Accessed Sept. 2008.USDA National Organic Program Humane Farm Animal CareRoom 4008 – South Building P.O. Box 7271400 and Independence Ave, SW Herndon, VA 20172Washington, DC 20250-0020 703-435-3883202-720-3253 Kuenzel, W. J. 2007. Neurobiological Basis of SensoryFor information on producing organic poultry under Perception: Welfare Implications of Beak Trimming.the European Union (EU) regulations, see Organic Poultry Science 86(6): 1273-1282.Poultry (Thear, 2005); also see EU organicregulations (European Union, 1991). Lunangtongkum, T., T. Y. Morishita, A. J. Ison, S. Huang, P. F. McDermott, and Q. Zhang. 2006. Effect of conventional and organic production practices onReferences the prevalence and antimicrobial resistance of Cam-American Humane Certified pylobacter spp. in poultry. Pp. 113-120. Proceedings63 Inverness Drive East of the 1st IFOAM International Conference on Ani-Englewood, CO 80112 mals in Organic Production, St. Paul, MN, Aug.303-792-9900 23-25, Novak, C. and C. Troche. 2006. Use of Bio-Bestman, M. and J. P. Wagenaar. 2006. Feather peck- Mos® to Control Salmonella and Campylobacter ining in organic rearing hens. Joint Organic Congress, Organic Poultry., Denmark, May 30-31, 2006. mwpf%20convention/2006/Use%20of%20Bio-Mos- Novak.pdf. Accessed Dec. 2007.European Union. 1991. Council Regulation (EEC) No.2092/91 of 24 June 1991 on organic production of Organic Trade Association. 2007. Manufacturer’sagricultural products and indications referring thereto Survey. www.ota.comon agricultural products and foodstuffs. http://europa. Permin, A., M. Bisgaard, F. Frandsen, M. Pearman,eu/eur-lex/en/consleg/main/1991/en_1991R2092_index. J. Kold, and P. Nansen. 1999. Prevalence of gastroin-html. Accessed Nov 2006. testinal helminths in different poultry productionFanatico, A.C., T. O’Connor-Dennie, C. M. Owens, systems. British Poultry Science 40(4): 439-443.and J. L. Emmert. 2007. Performance of alternative Sundrum, A. 2006. Protein supply in organic poultrymeat chickens for organic markets: impact of geno- and pig production. Pp. 195-199. Proceedings of thetype, methionine level, and methionine source. Poult. 1st IFOAM International Conference on Animals inSci. 86 (Supplement 1). Abstr. Organic Production, St. Paul, MN, Aug. 23-25, 2006.Fanatico, A.C., P. B. Pillai, T. O’Connor-Dennie, J. L. Thear, Katie. 2005. Organic Poultry. Broad LeysEmmert. 2006. Methionine requirements of Publishing Ltd, Essex, UK. 120 p.alternative slow-growing genotypes. Poult. Sci.85 (Supplement 1). Abstr. Thamsborg, S. M., A. Roepstorff, and M. Larsen. 1999. Integrated and biological control of parasitesHeuer, O.E., K. Pederson, J.S. Anderson, M. Madsen. in organic and conventional production systems.2001. Prevalence and antimicrobial susceptibility of Veterinary Parasitology 84(3/4): 169-186.Page 10 ATTRA Organic Poultry Production in the United States
  11. 11. AppendixTable 1. Comparison of highlights of poultry requirements of selected organic programsa USDA NOP European Soil Associa- Canada Bio-Gro (New IFOAM 2002 Union tion (UK) National Zealand)Living No cagesconditionsFlooring At least 1/3 of At least ½ of house must house must be be solid with solid with lit- litter (all slats ter (no more not permitted) than ½ slats permitted)Equipment Minimum feeder space (linear): 2.5 cm; minimum drinkers: 10 birds per nipplePerches 18 cm/layer 18 cm/layerNests 8 layers/nest 6 layers/nestMaximum 6 layer/m2 6 layer/m2 6 layers/m2 5 layers/m2 onindoor density 10 meat poul- 10 meat poul- 10 meat chick- litter or 10 lay- try/m2 (21 kg/ try/m2 (21 kg/ ens/m2 ers/m2 on slats m2 max)b m2 max)b 2m2/ turkey or 13 layers/m2 2 turkey/m2 on multilevels, perchesOutdoor area Outdoor At least 1/3 At least 2/3 At least 1/3 Birds must for- Access to pas- access of birds’ lives; of meat birds’ of birds’ lives age as soon as ture required; required mainly cov- lives and of all access to pas- possible (ide- “landless ani- ered by veg- laying lives; ture required; ally by first mal produc- etation; shel- well-covered covered by week); outside tion” is prohib- ter required with veg- vegetation area must pro- ited on pasture; etation; shel- vide access to access to pond ter required forages; shel- for waterfowl on pasture; ter required access to pond on pasture for waterfowl; outdoor drink- ers requiredPopholes or 4 m of 4 m of“bird door- pophole per pophole perways” 100 m2 house 100 m2 housePasture Rest pasture at Pasture left If run area isrotation least 9 months empty period- limited, pas- between each ically to allow ture must be batch of lay- vegetation to rotated ers; rest pas- regrow ture for 2 months per year plus 1 year in every 3 years for meat ATTRA Page 11
  12. 12. Table 1. Continued USDA NOP European Soil Associa- Canada Bio-Gro (New IFOAM 2002 Union tion (UK) National Zealand)Maximum 4 m2 per chick- 1,000 hens/ha; 4 layers/m2; 833 layers/ha;outdoor enc; 4 m2 per 2,500 meat 4 meat chckens/ 1,500 meatdensity layer; 10 m2 chickensc/ha; m2; 7.2 m2/tur- chickens/ha per turkey; 4-5 800 turkeys/ha key (over 10 m2 per duck wk)dMaximum 4,800 meat 500 layers orflock/farm size chickens; 3,000meat birds per layers; 2,500 house or 250 turkeys; maxi- turkeys/house; mum total if welfare and house area environment (entire farm) are well main- is 1,600m2 tained, then 2,000 layers or 1,000 meat chickens or turkeys; maxi- mum total house area (entire farm) is 1,600m2Lighting Artificial light- No fluorescent Natural ing cannot lighting daylight is extend day- needed length more than 16 hHealth Downtime Downtime Goal is to elim- between between inate need for flocks required flocks required vaccines; no GMO vaccinesAntibiotics Not permitted Antibiotics Emphasizes Not clear Antibiotics permitted as that vaccina- can be used last resort; tions before 2 as last resort if withdrawal is days cannot withdrawal is double have antibiotics doubleBeak trimming Permitted as Permitted as Not permitted; Permitted as a Not permitted Not permitted last resort last resort nor is wing last resort clippingArtificial Not specified, Permitted Permitted Permitted Permittedinsemination generally permittedForced molting Expressly prohibitedCaponization Permitted for Expressly traditional prohibited productPage 12 ATTRA Organic Poultry Production in the United States
  13. 13. Table 1. Continued USDA NOP European Soil Associa- Canada Bio-Gro (New IFOAM 2002 Union tion (UK) National Zealand)StockOrigin Under organic Organic must Organic must Under organic Under organic When no management be used if be used if avail- management management organic live- after 2 d available; or able; under after 2 d after 2 d stock is avail- under organic organic man- able: 2d for management agement after meat chick- after 3 d 3 d accepted, ens, 18 wk for must be organic hens, 2 wk for for at least 10 wk other poultry before slaughterMinimum age Chicken 81 d Similar to EUat slaughter Turkey 140 d but differs Duck (Peking) depending 49 de whether birds are organic or nonorganic stock and fast or slow growingGenetics Where If fast-grow- producers ing genet- do not apply ics are used, these mini- they must mum slaugh- be grown for ter ages, they 10 wk before must use slaughter slow-growing strainsFeed Animals should be fed organic feed% organic 100% feed 15% of feed Organic feed Organic feed Some non-feed required may come required required organic feed from nonor- except for allowed: 15% ganic sources fishmeal; natu- (dry matter (by 2012, ral vitamins basis) 100% organic and minerals feed will be should be used required) if possibleSource After 2010, Ideally, feed At least 50% 50% of feed should come of feed should must come from the farm come from the from farm or region farm itself or where birds region are raisedNutrient level At least 65% of Grains during At least 65% of finishing feed finishing finishing feed must be cereal must be cerealRoughage Roughage Roughage required in required in daily ration daily ration; grit ATTRA Page 13
  14. 14. Table 1. Continued USDA NOP European Soil Associa- Canada Bio-Gro (New IFOAM 2002 Union tion (UK) National Zealand) Synthetic Prohibited, Prohibited Prohibited Prohibited amino acids temporary exception for methionine Transport/processing Should be low Humanely kill Should be Detailed trans- Transit time stress unfit birds and low stress; port standards must not protect birds humanely kill exceed 8 h; from elements unfit bids transport during load- and slaughter ing, unloading should mini- and lairage mize stress and adverse effects of temperaturea Note that 1 m2 = 10.8 ft2; 4 m2 = 43.2 ft2b If mobile housing is used in which the popholes remain open at night, the indoor stocking density can be increased: 16 birds/m2 (maximum of30 kg live weight). This type of housing must not be larger than 150m2.c If mobile housing is used, only 2.5 m2 per meat bird is requiredd Additional standards for mobile units moved dailye Other requirements for capons, female Muscovy ducks, male Muscovy ducks, Mallard ducks, guineafowl, roasting geesePage 14 ATTRA Organic Poultry Production in the United States
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  16. 16. Organic Poultry Production in the United States By Anne Fanatico, Ph.D. NCAT Agriculture Specialist © 2008 NCAT Holly Michels, Editor Amy Smith, Production This publication is available on the Web at: or IP331 Slot 328 Version 121708Page 16 ATTRA