What is Organic?
My old English teacher always stressed the importance of defining terms; otherwise, she would ask us gravely, how would anyone know what anyone else was talking about? So, it is prudent to follow her sterling example and start with some definitions.
Officially, the following birds are recognised as poultry and are therefore subject to regulation: chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys and guinea fowl.
There are three ways of describing what is meant by the term organic: the dictionary definition, the traditional definition as most people know it, and the legal one.
The dictionary definition is that it is a coordinated whole with various factors contributing to an organised body, where the connected and interdependent parts share a common life.
Those who have been organic before there was even a legal definition of the term understand that their activities are benign, humane and enhance the environment rather than damage it. They work on the following principles that have been defined by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM):
- Produce food of high quality in sufficient quantity.
- Interact in a constructive and life-enhancing way with natural systems and cycles.
- Consider the wider social and ecological impact of the organic production processing system.
- Encourage and enhance biological cycles within the farming system involving micro-organisms, soil flora, plants and animals.
- Maintain and increase the long-term fertility of soil.
- Maintain the genetic diversity of the production system and its surroundings, including the protection of plant and wildlife habitats.
- Use as far as possible renewable resources in locally organised production systems.
- Create a harmonious balance between crop production and animal husbandry.
- Give all livestock conditions of life with due consideration for the basic aspects of their innate behaviour.
- Minimise all forms of pollution.
- Process organic products using renewable resources.
- Allow those involved in organic production and processing, quality of life which meets their basic needs and allows an adequate return and satisfaction from their work, including a safe working environment
- Progress towards an entire production, processing and distribution chain that is socially just and ecologically responsible.
When it comes to the production of food, the word organic also has a legal definition so that consumers may be assured that so-called organic produce has been produced in a humane way and by sustainable management that does not damage the environment. It applies to horticultural and farming methods, crops, foods, animals and poultry and there are two sets of regulations and standards that apply:
- EU Regulation EC2092/91 which has the status of law throughout the European Union. This sets the minimum standards that are required for organic production.
- Interpretation of Standards within the UK. The EU Regulations specify that each member country has its own interpreting organisation. In the UK, this is the Advisory Committee on Organic Standards (ACOS). It was originally called United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS), and is part of the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The interpreted standards are referred to as the UK Organic Standards.
Function of ACOS
ACOS (originally UKROFS) interprets the European Union legislation for organic production within the UK. It advises the Government on organic matters and is responsible for research and development in the field. It also ensures that producers are certified as organic producers and are subject to inspection. However, the actual jobs of certification and inspection are put out to various organisations who must themselves be registered with ACOS.
This article is a shortened extract from Organic Poultry by Katie Thear and used with permission of the publisher.
Further Articles on Organic Poultry
- Alternative Organic Poultry Standards for Poultry Keepers
- Organic Poultry, What are Organic Poultry Standards?
- Organic Registered Certification Bodies, Certification Organic Poultry
- Which Organic Poultry Standard to Follow?