Seals are intended to ensure transparency in the organic market. But what exactly is the difference between “Bio light” and “Premium-Bio”? How do the certifications work and what do they mean for producers? We offer you an overview of animal husbandry

Whether EU or association seal: there are clear guidelines for animal husbandry, or more precisely, for animal stocking, grazing and transport routes. In the case of the farming associations, the permissible animal stocking is more restricted than in the EU Organic Regulation. For example, the EU permits 14 fattening pigs per hectare, while Demeter, Bioland and Naturland permit only 10. The difference is even more marked for fattening chickens (EU: 580 per hectare; associations 280 per hectare) and laying hens (EU: 230 per hectare; associations 140 per hectare).

Interventions such as beak trimming, which is widespread in conventional barns, are not permitted on organic farms, but can be approved in exceptional cases according to the EU regulation. They are categorically excluded in the case of Demeter, as are tail docking in pigs, nipping off teeth and pulling in nose rings. The dehorning of cattle is also permitted in principle for the EU seal, but prohibited without exception for Demeter. So-called cow trainers (electrical educational aids) are banned by all three associations.

For dairy cattle, suckler cows, sheep and goats the EU, unlike the associations, does not provide for compulsory grazing during the growing season. For poultry, too, Demeter, Bioland and Naturland have more generous rules for outdoor grazing areas. On the subject of animal transport, the EU Organic Regulation does not make any concrete specifications. Organic animals may be transported up to eight hours like their conventional counterparts. The associations limit the transport distances to 200 kilometres each, Bioland and Naturland additionally to a duration of four hours.

The own feed basis

Both the EU and the growers’ associations demand 100 percent feed from organic farming as a matter of principle. However, the EU label does not clearly prescribe feed production from one’s own farm, while the growers’ associations are more interested in a circular economy with nutrient cycles as closed as possible.

According to the EU regulation, fodder should “mainly” be produced on one’s own or another organic farm in the same region: at least 60 percent for cattle, sheep and horses, and at least 20 percent for pigs and poultry. For all animal species, the farming associations demand at least 50 percent feed from the own farm or a regional cooperation. Bioland prescribes 60 percent for ruminants and horses.

If fodder is not available in organic quality, a maximum of five percent conventional fodder can be used with the EU label, while all three associations provide for the uncompromising use of 100 percent organic fodder, primarily association-certified, and exclude the use of genetically modified fodder. In addition, 50 per cent of the daily ration and even two thirds of the annual ration must be Demeter feed.

Exclusive silage feeding is possible during the whole year under the EU seal. In contrast, the growers’ associations require that green fodder will be offered in summer, for Demeter even at least 50 per cent, if possible by grazing.