Skip to Main navigation Skip to Left navigation Skip to Main content Skip to Footer

University of Minnesota Extension

Extension > Food > Small Farms > Alternative and small-scale livestock systems > Swine > Designing feeding programs for natural and organic pork production > Documentation and records needed for organic certification

Print Icon Email Icon Share Icon

Designing feeding programs for natural and organic pork production

Documentation and records needed for organic certification

Jerry Shurson, Mark Whitney, Lee Johnston, Bob Koehler, Robert Hadad, Dean Koehler, Wayne Martin, Sarah Schieck

The National Organic Standards require organic producers to maintain production and management records, which can be written, visual (photographs, for example), or electronic. Certifying agencies review these records as a part of the certification process. The records must be kept a minimum of five years as an audit trail that will allow for the tracing of the sources of animals, sources of feed and amounts fed, forage, feed supplements, treatments, medications, and animal health.

How does a hog become organic? It doesn’t, it must be born that way, from a sow that was raised organically starting no later than the last third of gestation. The mother will never be organic, but her piglets can be. For people who use natural service, boars do not have to be organic. Pigs must have access to the outdoors, which can be a dry lot and/or a pasture.

Documentation begins at the last third of gestation or purchase of the animals. Specific information should include: date born, date purchased, date sold, date died, date bred, date farrowed, and date weaned. If animals are sold, record the buyer's name. If the animal is slaughtered, record the date of slaughter, processor's name, and buyer. Record any vaccinations or other medical or veterinary care, including disease diagnosis, date of treatment, medication and dosage used, time of withdrawal period, and copies of all medication labels.

Documentation of the feeding program requires listing diet formulations, feed ingredient sources with organic certificates, date of purchases, copies of ingredient labels, and locations where the feed is stored. Farms using on-farm produced ingredients must also certify their crop production ( The reason for such thorough records is to ensure that no co-mingling of non-organic livestock or feed ingredients occurs, allowable medications are identified, and that proper medical attention has been given to sick animals regardless of certification status. These records also give the farmer a paper trail to prove that his or her animals have been raised according to certified practices.

Livestock feed

Certified organic crops serve as the base feedstuffs for organic livestock nutrition. However, the use of some synthetic substances is allowed in organic pork production. Consult the National Organic Standards and your certifying agency for specifics on allowances during the period of conversion to organic status.

Feeds can include synthetic and nonsynthetic substances as described below:

  1. Synthetic substances are prohibited unless specifically allowed by NOP. See list. Allowed examples: vaccines, iodine, electrolytes.
  2. Natural substances are allowed unless specifically prohibited by NOP. See list. Prohibited example: strychnine.

To be sold as “certified organic pork,” and carry the USDA Organic seal, a third party must certify that a farmer has followed feeding and production requirements listed in the NOP regulations. Only standards required by the NOP regulations can be enforced, however certifying agencies’ interpretations of those regulations may differ. Producers must be familiar with the national standards and be in communication with their certifying agency to avoid practices that may disqualify their products from being certified. Details of the third party certification process can be reviewed at the USDA-NOP website.

Although the use of antibiotics or drugs is not allowed in animals that are sold to organic markets, this does not suggest that animal welfare can be ignored if animals become sick or need medication. In fact, the National Organic Standards require that a producer of organic livestock must administer veterinary biologics (vaccines) as needed to protect the well-being of animals in his or her care.

When preventative practices and veterinary biologics are inadequate to prevent sickness, the producer may administer medications included on the National List of Synthetic Substances allowed for use in organic production systems. The rule also clearly states that a producer must not withhold medical treatment from a sick animal to maintain its organic status. All appropriate medications and treatments must be used to restore an animal to health when methods acceptable to organic production standards fail. Livestock that are treated with prohibited materials must be clearly identified and must not be sold, labeled, or represented as organic.

Read next: Challenges in feeding organically raised pigs



  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy