Organic poultry production in the United States: Broilers

A. C. Fanatico, C. M. Owens, J. L. Emmert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Since the USDA implemented the National Organic Program, the growth of the organic food market has continued to increase, with organic poultry as leading products. Organic livestock husbandry practices focus on living conditions that permit natural behaviors and provide outdoor access, preventive health management with a prohibition of antibiotics or other drugs (although vaccines can be used), and organic feed. Organic feed is raised without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides; pastures to which birds have access must also be organic. Hatcheries are currently not required to be organic, and conventional chicks may be used if they are under organic management by the second day after hatching. Although alternative, slow-growing genotypes are used in organic production in the European Union, conventional genetics are used in the United States. Poultry products, including meat and eggs, must be handled organically. Most synthetic materials are not permitted in organic food production, whereas most natural materials are; however, the National Organic Program National List specifies which materials are allowed. Of particular interest is an impending ban on the use of synthetic methionine in organic poultry diets. Research in the United States has examined alternative strategies, including the use of slow-growing broilers that are less heavily muscled than conventional fast-growing meat birds, but has not shown these birds to have lower methionine requirements. Research has also examined sensory differences between specialty and conventional meat chickens in the United States. Consumer panelists indicated no preference between these products, although trained panelists found some differences in the flavor of thigh meat. More meat quality differences were due to genotype than to outdoor access. Breast meat from slow-growing birds was more tender than that from fast-growing birds. Outdoor access resulted in leaner meat, but only in the case of slow-growing birds. As interest grows in specialty and organic poultry meat products, additional research is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-366
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Poultry Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Methionine
  • National organic program
  • Organic
  • Poultry
  • Slow growing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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