Processing and Labeling Regulations of Organic Livestock Products in the United States

eOrganic author:

Jim Riddle, University of Minnesota

According to the National Organic Program (NOP) final rule (United States Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2000), in order to be labeled "organic," meat, milk and egg handling and processing operations must be certified. Organic products must not be commingled with non-organic products or come in contact with prohibited substances during handling or processing. All ingredients and other substances used in or on organic products during processing must appear in §205.605 or §205.606 of the National List. Records of all processing activities must be maintained.

Product labeling must be legal, which means that for interstate sales, meat labels must be pre-approved by the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service, in addition to being approved by your certifier. Section 205.236(c) of the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations requires that organic livestock operations maintain records to preserve the identity of all organic livestock products. Typically, a lot number, date code, or facility code is applied to a product to allow the product to be tracked to the processing facility. For meat, the processor maintains records to track products back to the operation where the animal originated. Since dairy products are generally blended during processing, processing records connect a product to the farms where the milk originated, but not to a specific farm or animal.

Though its use is not mandatory, all operations certified by NOP-accredited certification agencies can use the "USDA Organic" seal on products that contain at least 95% organic content and meet all other applicable labeling requirements.

Citations and References


Published January 21, 2009

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.