USDA Asked to Decide if Organic Means Outdoor

A debate is currently raging regarding how livestock should be raised. Many organic devotees insist that organic means small farms, open space and fresh air, and they want the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create new rules defining the conditions in which organic hens should be kept.

Others, however, have argued that such standards result in food that's too expensive, and using enclosures makes organics more affordable. The USDA's current organic rules require all livestock to spend time outdoors, but the rules don't specify how much space the animals should have or whether that space should be on a pasture or in an enclosure.

According to David Mercer, writing in the Huffington Post:

"On many large organic egg farms, hens spend their outdoor time on concrete patios or other areas in which there's no access to dirt or grass. Critics say those birds might be eating organic feed, but they're being raised in conditions much like the ones on conventional farms. They say that's not what consumers envision when they buy organic eggs, which often come in misleading packages."

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