Organic standards in the past have included loopholes that allowed organic dairy cows to live in less-than-optimal conditions, resulting in less healthy dairy and poorer animal treatment. Now, that’s changing.
Last week, the Department of Agriculture issued a set of newly-revised rules regulating how much time organic dairy cows must spend grazing on pasture. Previously, organic cattle only needed to have “access” to pasture, which didn’t necessarily guarantee that cows were outside eating grass instead of in a feedlot eating grain. Beginning in June, the cattle must graze on pasture for the full length of the farm’s local growing season (at least 120 days). What’s more, grass should make up at least 30 percent of the cows’ diets during that period. The new rules will be enforced by yearly inspections plus additional spot-checks.
Many in the organic dairy community see this as a victory. Do you? Is the Department of Agriculture doing enough to protect the organic labelor are the new rules still too lax?