USDA: Synthetic Feed Additive Allowed in Organic Poultry

August 5, 2008 at 7:00 am

Organic doesn’t always mean 100% organic. That’s certainly not a secret to those of us in agriculture, but I imagine the typical lay-person probably has no idea that synthetic components can still be used in “organic” food. In fact, foods carrying the official USDA organic seal may contain up to 5% non-organic ingredients.

Case in point: methionine. Methionine is a synthetic feed additive used in organic poultry production. Ohio has a reliable poultry (and turkey) industry, although I am not aware of what percentage of that industry is organic.

Methionine was set to be removed from organic poultry production in 2005 and again in October, 2008. The current proposal placed at the regulating agency, USDA, by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) would allow synthetic methionine use to continue in organic poultry production until October, 2010.

The argument by organic poultry producers is simple: there is no sufficient replacement for methionine. In fact, there are natural products that can be used in place of methionine, but the supply of these natural alternatives is apparently lacking.

I surmise that the USDA will accept the proposal by the NOSB and methionine will continue to be used as a synthetic feed additive in organic poultry production. Is this bad? I make no judgment whether this practice is good or bad. The point of this post is to inform non-farm readers that not everything marketed as organic is free of synthetic additives.

If you really want to live the organic food lifestyle, free of synthetic additives, you must purchase food that clearly states “100% Organic” on the package. If the food package states “organic” or “made with organic ingredients,” it leaves the door open for the food manufacturer to legally use synthetic additives.

If you can’t sleep, you can read the full story in the federal register on methionine use in organic poultry production here: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5070659

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