Saturday, December 16, 2017

Should Organic Mean Outdoors?

The Trump administration is set to remove a regulation that the Obama administration enacted requiring organic chickens to have more outdoor time.  This regulation is one that the organic industry wanted in order to level the playing field when it came to factory farms versus organic farms.  Currently, factory organic farms have porches that allow chickens to go outside, but it wouldn't be enough once the regulation took effect.  Now, it is endangered by the possible repeal.

Is Outdoors Simply Good Enough?
Everyone thinks organic chickens get this

When reading this, I had to shrug and say, "so what?"  The picture above shows what a typical "free-range" and "cage-free" farm looks like. Birds are crowded inside and outside the barn.  Their "free range" is on concrete or gravel packed beak-to-comb (as opposed to cheek-to-jowl) with each other.  Now, if you're looking for happy hens, this isn't it.

Of course, the newer regulations may have made this more humane, but I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the factory farms would get around it. Sorry, that's just how it is.
Instead, most organic chickens get this

Why I don't put a lot of Stock into these Laws

I'm at best skeptical over these laws.  Why?  Because factory farms will find loopholes or will have administrations change or nullify the laws.  Look at what happened to the point of origin laws.  Sure enough, the Obama administration repealed an excellent law that enabled people to know where their food is coming from. So, no matter what administration we have, we'll have politicians in the pockets of factory farms and someone somehow will find a loophole.

If my farm were to become a fully viable chicken venture, I could never claim organic because my
A nice indoor set up
chickens are in a barn.  But unlike the factory farms, they're 17 chickens in a 30 ft by 50 ft barn and have the whole run of it.  They get grain and food scraps, along with the occasional hay, alfalfa, and bugs, but they don't get to go outside, even though the barn is open to fresh air.  Why?  Because we have hawks, eagles, foxes, lynx, weasels, skunks, coyotes, bobcats, and an assortment of other (much bigger) predators.  One rooster I had decided that the barn was not the place to hang out in.  He thought living outside was a great idea and tried to perch outside the barn.  I took him back when I could. When he finally got away from me, he hung outside  the barn where I could do nothing to catch him.  That lasted two days.  I woke at night to a chicken scream -- and then, nothing.  The next day, I found the feathers where the resident fox had his meal.  So, no outdoor poultry -- and no "Organic" label, even though the eggs my chickens lay would most likely qualify.

Even if I did want my chickens' eggs to have the "Organic" label, it would cost lots of money and tons of paperwork to accomplish.  I'll stay small, thank you.

Outdoors or Indoors?

I think it's not a matter of whether your chickens are indoors or outdoors, but rather what quality of life they have.  Are they crammed together with little space to move around in, or do they have plenty of space to do chicken things like dust themselves, make nests, look for bugs, and scratch in the dirt?  Are they safe from predators?  Do they have a reasonable life for chickens?

The best thing is to know where you're getting your eggs from, even if they're not organic or certified organic.  Preferably from your own chickens in their own coop.  But if you can't own chickens, consider purchasing eggs from small farms that sell at local farmer's markets and ask how the chickens are kept.  That way, you support your local economy, have great tasting eggs, and have birds that are raised humanely.

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