Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Breaking News: USDA's New Pasture Rules for Organic Livestock

This just in: The USDA published its final rule on access to pasture for organic dairy animals this afternoon. This enhancement to the National Organic Standards has been in the works for many years, and its announcement is a major victory for organic consumers, the integrity of the organic label, and the lives of organic livestock. While the National Organic Standards already require access to pasture for ruminant animals, this enhancement lays out very specific requirements:
  • Animals must graze pasture during the grazing season, which must be at least 120 days per year;
  • Animals must obtain a minimum of 30 percent dry matter intake from grazing pasture during the grazing season;
  • Producers must have a pasture management plan and manage pasture as a crop to meet the feed requirements for the grazing animals and to protect soil and water quality; and,
  • Livestock are exempt from the 30 percent dry matter intake requirements during the finish feeding period, not to exceed 120 days. Livestock must have access to pasture during the finishing phase.
We’ve supported this enhancement through our testimony and comments to the USDA and the National Organic Standard Board over the past four years. We intend to carefully review the final rule and provide our comments to the USDA. This change is a giant victory for the integrity and continued growth of the organic label, since it adds clearer definition to the role of pasture in organic livestock production. Our experience with our customers confirms that there is an overwhelming consumer expectation that organic livestock are grazed on pasture, which allows ruminant animals to fulfill their natural behaviors. Stay tuned for more updates, and for more information, check out the USDA’s press release and Q&A on the changes.