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Extension > Food > Small Farms > Alternative and small-scale livestock systems > Swine > Designing feeding programs for natural and organic pork production > Introduction: What does it mean to raise organic pork?

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Designing feeding programs for natural and organic pork production

What does it mean to raise organic pork?

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

This publication provides information on how to build a diet for growing pigs and lactating or gestating sows, in summer or winter feeding conditions, while selecting from a variety of feed ingredients. The feedstuffs could be used in any feeding program, but do need to meet the standards that a production system or marketing label may require. For example, depending on the type of marketing program through which the pigs will be sold, they may be fed a diet that is certified organic, non-GMO, or antibiotic free, as long as the ingredients were produced according to the demands of the label requirements.

According to USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service the term natural is defined as a product containing no artificial ingredients or added color and is only minimally processed. The term natural thus applies only to the processing stage of meat production and marketing. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed"). The definition is on the USDA FSIS website. The Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard, created by the USDA Ag Marketing Service and described in the 2009 Federal Register Notice (74FR3541), is no longer available as of January 2016.

In 2002, the National Organic Program (NOP) was created to provide clearer guidelines regarding what ingredients, production protocols, and other practices qualify to be certified organic, and so recognized by the NOP. The United States National Organic Standards are outlined in Part 205 of Title 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations (7 CFR part 205) and have been in place since 2002. Information on NOP.

This publication will focus on the stricter guidelines established by the NOP, while acknowledging that the feed ingredients listed could be used in other feeding programs. The NOP has an ingredient list for livestock feed products that must be organically produced. This list includes any pasture that is used for feed, forage, or housing swine. Organic pork is from pigs that were raised on a certified organic farm that follows organic management requirements. These requirements address many aspects of pig production including use of feed ingredients that are produced and handled according to certified organic standards outlined by the NOP. This includes pasture and forage. Existing pastures must be managed using organic practices for three years before they can be considered certified organic.

Producers wishing to produce certified organic pork must complete the organic certification process. Information, including a list of certifiers, can be found on the NOP’s website. The role of the certifying agency is to ensure that production practices adhere to the National Organic Standards. The certifying agency does not certify purity of the organic products but does certify the process used to produce those organic products.

Five steps of the organic certification process

  1. Farm must complete an application and develop an Organic System Plan (OSP).
  2. Farm implements the OSP, and the certifier reviews the OSP
  3. Certifying inspector completes an onsite inspection of the farm to evaluate the implementation of the OSP and the farm’s compliance with USDA’s organic regulations
  4. Certifying agent reviews the inspection report
  5. Certifying agent decides whether to grant certification to the farm

An organic certified farm must submit an updated OSP and fees to its certifying agent at least once per year and have an inspection by a certifying agent to maintain its organic certification. A certifying agent must approve any changes a farm makes, such as adding new animal species, fields, or facilities.

Read next: Documentation and records needed for organic certification



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