The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is suing the USDA for poultry industry standards and regulations being too lenient. The association alleges that under the current rules, chickens are subject to overcrowding and animal abuse.
Today’s requirements as stated by the USDA ensure hens that produce eggs with organic certification will have access to outdoors. The concern, according to the OTA, is that the outdoor space is not defined enough by the USDA and egg producers can stuff the space with chickens while still being considered organic.
Though the USDA states the outdoor space can be covered, which can protect birds from predators or excessive heat, how much space is required per chicken is not defined. Chickens that do not have adequate space can be attacked by larger birds or suffer from injuries because they are not able to spread their wings or scratch the dirt like natural birds.
The OTA’s legal action is a reaction the former USDA’s organic rule being postponed by the Trump administration. Under the Obama administration, the former USDA’s proposed rule did have more defined and rigid regulations that were going in the direction that OTA approved of, but in early 2017, the rule was put back under review with a possible chance of being withdrawn altogether.