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Posts Tagged ‘FDA’

Chicken RunOur friend Nancy Stewart alerted us that the dispute over organic egg regulations took a strange turn last week.

The USDA rules require that organic egg-laying hens be allowed access to the outdoors. But advocates for animal welfare feel that large-scale organic egg producers do not currently provide their hens with enough outdoor access. There is an effort to convince the USDA to strengthen the outdoor access requirement.

Now, it turns out that the FDA has a rule of its own for egg farmers. (That’s right, the FDA—a completely separate government department). The FDA “Egg Rule” says if you are a large scale producer (over 3,000 hens), you must takes steps to prevent your hens from picking up the Salmonella Enteritidis bug. The Egg Rule is not new. But the FDA just recently issued a “draft guidance” which basically says that the Egg Rule means that laying hens—even organic ones—should never be allowed outside. At least not in the real world. You can let the hens into an outdoor area as long as you keep them away from all wild birds, rodents, and flies.

Setting aside the annoyance of two different agencies playing tug-of-war with the rules, it just seems wrong that the term “organic” should be watered down in this way. Outdoors where the wild birds are, where the rodents and the flies are—that is exactly where chickens naturally belong. If we can’t let the hens interact with nature, I don’t think we should be calling their eggs “organic.”

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Seventy percent of the antibiotics sold in the US are fed to livestock. Surprisingly, most of these antibiotics are not to treat sick animals, or even to prevent them from getting sick. Industrial farms mostly use antibiotics to make animals grow faster. Nobody knows why this works, but it does. But this practice almost certainly contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, creating a threat to human health. (Note: we do not use any antibiotics at all on our animals.)

Last week, the FDA proposed a new rule saying certain antibiotics can no longer be used to promote growth. We don’t think this goes far enough. Farmers can still use antibiotics to prevent disease, so they can continue feeding antibiotics and simply claim it is to prevent disease. We think non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock should be phased out completely, as proposed by the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act.

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