Should science serve as the primary guide when hammering out stricter animal-welfare and other farming standards currently under discussion in the organic dairy industry? "Absolutely; without a doubt," said Juan Velez, lead veterinarian and vice president, farm operations of Aurora Organic Dairy.

Velez's stance was echoed by other scientifically trained presenters who, during a symposium's panel presentation, called for standards based on science and "measurable indicators" of animal welfare. The U.S. Department of Agriculture invited Velez, along with a who's who list of other nationally recognized animal-care experts, to provide professional observations during the age department's organic dairy symposium. The USDA scheduled its dairy symposium, held this week in State College, Pa., in conjunction with the federal agency's National Organic Standards Board meeting.

Some in the organic dairy industry have been lobbying for narrow parameters — such as the number of days an animal spends on pasture and the percent of dry matter from pasture that should contribute to the animal's diet — as the changes needed to tighten animal welfare standards in organic dairying.

However, Velez and other experts emphasized that pasture, though important, was only one piece of a larger issue — the need for measurable, uniform, animal-welfare standards in the organic dairy industry. According to Velez, adopting a set of measurable indicators related to animal welfare and then enforcing them via third-party certification would provide the best assurance for both professionals and

Consumers that organic farms are upholding excellent animal-care standards.

In addition, results from an independent, national poll of more than 1,000 consumers were presented at the symposium. The study was conducted by the Natural Marketing Institute whose researchers surveyed purchasers of both organic and conventional foods. Findings revealed consumers' primary concerns related to organic dairy products. Pesticides, antibiotics and hormones in their foods were their greatest concerns, followed closely by organic feed and animal welfare.

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AuroraOrganic Dairy, PRNewswire