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4 Months In Feedlots to “Finish” Organic Beef?
Tell the USDA to Ban Factory Farming from Organic
Should organic ruminants such as a dairy cows and beef cattle—which have evolved to eat grass—be permitted to be kept in feedlots or should they be required by USDA organic regulations to obtain at least a portion of their feed directly from pasture?

According to the USDA’s new organic pasture rule, released in February 2010, pasture grazing is required in organic dairy production, but organic beef cattle may be exempt from obtaining any of their feed from pasture during the last four months of their lives.

The New Pasture Rule’s Exemption for Beef Cattle

The rule states that organic producers must “maintain all ruminant animals on pasture,” but, in an apparent contradiction, may simultaneously also utilize “dry lots, yards or feedlots” for grain finishing of slaughter stock, such as beef cattle, during the last 120 days or one-fifth of the animal’s life, whichever is shorter.  During these 120 days, these organic animals are exempt from the requirement to obtain at least 30% dry matter intake (DMI) from pasture.

The USDA is seeking comments as to whether or not the current language should be strengthened or weakened.  The final determination on this language will more clearly define how organic beef is produced.

Current Practices in the Organic Beef Industry

To gain a deeper understanding of current practices in the organic beef industry, the Cornucopia Institute surveyed organic beef producers from across the nation.  Results of the survey revealed that 80% of organic beef producers graze their beef cattle on pasture until slaughter, never confining them to a feedlot.  In fact, 60% of organic beef producers never feed any grain to their cattle (100% grass-fed), while 20% maintain their cattle on pasture but provide small amounts of grain.  The new rule’s exemption for ruminant slaughter stock from obtaining feed from pasture is therefore not needed by the vast majority of organic beef producers.

Studies show that cattle confined and fed grain in feedlots are prone to E. coli 0157 contamination, whereas healthy organic cattle grazing on grass are typically free of this dangerous pathogen. The meat from grass-fed beef is also healthier and more nutritious than beef that’s been “marbleized” in the feedlot.

Take Action: Tell President Obama and the USDA National Organic Program that you don’t want organic beef cattle to be kept in factory-farm-style feedlots for the last four months of their lives.

Deadline: April 19, 2010

Click “Take Action Now!” to send a letter to President Obama. We’ll compile copies of these letters and submit them to the USDA National Organic Program. If you would like to send a letter directly to the NOP, please click here.
Comments may also be submitted by mail to:  Toni Strother, Agricultural Marketing Specialist, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-TMP-NOP, Room 2646-So., Ag Stop 0268, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC  20250-0268.
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