Food production creatively involves organic livestock production in a web of rules directed towards a high status of animal welfare, care for the environment, restricted use of medical drugs and the production of a healthy product without residues like pesticides. As of the year 2000, the intentions of organic livestock production have been formulated by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and were further implemented by EU regulation. These rules have consequences on animal health. However, some of these rules are not clear enough owing to the differences in ideas and practices among organic farmers themselves.
Pressure from within and outside the organic farm community led to the development of animal food production system that incorporates a better treatment and welfare of the animals, takes care of human resources and environment and at the same time results in products that do not contain unwanted chemical residues or pesticides. A unique organic food chain has been set up to prevent confusion concerning different brands of organically grown or reared products and to provide a uniform translation of the biological principles.
Organic farm production, which differs from conventional systems, has been regulated since 2000. All member states of the Europian Union have to comply with these rules. Some countries, including the Netherlands, have added some rules that take care of certification and informing farmers and processors within the food chain about legislation. In organic farm systems the animals are allowed a larger housing area including outdoor access, have obligatory straw bedding, and are fed organic feed and roughage. The use of antibiotics is restricted, the waiting times before delivery of products after medical treatments are longer, weaning periods are longer, tail, teeth and beak clipping are prohibited and broiler systems use slower growing breeds. After these measures are observed, products are obtained from animals grown under higher welfare conditions and containing fewer residues than the products from conventional rearing systems.
Although its boundaries are not so strict, the organic movement throughout Europe is well defined. As a result, different types of individual organic farmers, each with their own ideas and practices came to add hues to the dynamic life of the organic farm. This fact should be taken into account when comparing organic farm livestock systems with those of conventional farms. The organic farmer with his own ideas and practices plays a significant role in the health of the animals reared under the above-mentioned conditions.