USDA’s final rule on organic beef and milk

The USDA released it’s final rule on pasture feeding and access for organically raised cows. The highlights:

  • Animals must graze pasture during the grazing season, which must be at least 120 days per year;
  • Animals must obtain a minimum of 30 percent dry matter intake from grazing pasture during the grazing season;
  • Producers must have a pasture management plan and manage pasture as a crop to meet the feed requirements for the grazing animals and to protect soil and water quality; and,
  • Livestock are exempt from the 30 percent dry matter intake requirements during the finish feeding period, not to exceed 120 days. Livestock must have access to pasture during the finishing phase.

This still allows for grain feeding  during the finishing phase. Finishing is a practice among organic farmers and ranchers to improve the grade of beef and involves feeding livestock grain, so this point isn’t relevant to milk cows. Cows are ruminants, which means they are designed to eat plant-based food and while they can eat grain, their more natural diet is grass, hay, or such. Grass-fed beef is still the best option when it comes to buying beef.  All that said, it is good to have tighter regulations on organic farming operations so we all understand exactly what we’re getting.