The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Meredith Turner 646-369-6212 or

Even with Tougher Regulations, 'Organic' Label Fails to Adequately Address Animal Welfare Concerns


Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced new rules raising the standards meat and dairy producers must meet to be certified organic. Yet Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization, cautions consumers that even with these changes the "organic" label -- as well as other labels -- are often misleading and do not ensure that farm animals are treated well.

"American consumers are increasingly aware of and concerned about the cruel treatment of animals exploited for human consumption," said Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary's president and co-founder. "The livestock industry has responded to this growing awareness by marketing their products with claims like 'humane,' 'natural,' 'cage-free,' and 'organic.' But the reality for farm animals living in these conditions is hardly as sunny as retailers would like consumers to believe. We appreciate the recent improvements in organic standards and are glad that deputy secretary of the USDA, Kathleen Merrigan, sees the current move as a 'down payment' on future reforms, but there are still serious animal cruelty concerns that need to be addressed.

"These latest reforms point to commonly abused loopholes in organic certification. While current USDA National Organic Program Regulations mandate 'access to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air and direct sunlight suitable to the species, its stage of production, the climate and the environment,' these vague terms offer little comfort to farm animals. Variables such as the number and size of access points and how frequently they must be opened, as well as the quality of the outdoor area are left undefined. As a result, certified organic products may have come from animals who have been crowded by the thousands into a building with a single small, rarely open exit leading to a barren dirt lot -- a far cry from the paradise consumers are led to envision. What's more, even the few standards that do exist are poorly enforced. Against federal regulations, some organic certifiers have chosen not to require that the 'access to outdoors' clause be met, and despite this, they still obtain organic certification."

Farm Sanctuary's Truth Behind Labels report remains the only comprehensive analyses of animal product labeling schemes ever published to help today's consumers understand the process. The Truth Behind LabelsCampaign serves to educate consumers about the reality of these labeling schemes and to advocate for transparency in animal welfare standards.

Farm Sanctuary's summary booklet and report entitled "The Truth Behind the Labels: Farm Animal Welfare Standards and Labeling Practices," is available at

If you would like to speak with Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder Gene Baur, please contact Meredith Turner at 646-369-6212 or

Farm Sanctuary fights the disastrous effects of animal agriculture on animals, the environment, social justice, and public health through rescue, education, and advocacy.