The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) recently submitted comments on the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Organic Program; Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices proposed rule, with NCBA President Tracy Brunner stating that voluntary agency marketing programs are not the place to codify animal production practices.
“Organic programs are marketing programs and therefore not the place to prescribe animal welfare practices,” said Brunner. “America’s cattle producers are the best stewards of their herds and they take pride in the welfare of their animals. That is why, over the past thirty years, cattlemen and women have worked to develop and improve animal care and handling standards through the Beef Quality Assurance Program. Rather than set rigid political standards in statute, the Beef Quality Assurance program is driven by experts in animal care, using industry-accepted and peer reviewed science to set the program guidelines. Instead of attempting to address continuously changing animal care and handling practices in this rule, we recommend the USDA suggest that organic producers become BQA certified.”
The Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Program is currently recognized as the gold standard in cattle care and handling, but there is concern that setting welfare standards through the National Organic Program proposed rule will mislead consumers and support standards that do not have a basis in science.
“We know the Beef Quality Assurance Program sets the highest standard for animal welfare, and that standard is continuously reviewed and updated as new science becomes available,” said Brunner. “Efforts by the USDA to set a secondary animal welfare standard for organic will inevitably mislead consumers into thinking that such arbitrary standards are handled in a manner different than conventionally produced beef. The cattle industry supports voluntary marketing programs like the organic program and we have producers who participate in these programs, but consumers need to clearly understand regardless of what product they choose to buy the commitment to safety, quality and animal welfare remains the same.”
NCBA has encouraged the USDA AMS to withdraw the current proposed rule and work with producers to draft a rule that gives consumers choice, and gives producers marketing opportunities that do not disparage conventional products.