Revised December, 2020
In December 2016, the United States had 14,707 hogs and pigs certified organic on 151 farms. Wisconsin was number one in organic hog inventory with 6,349. Wisconsin's 20 organic hog farms had sales of $2.6 million. New York had the most organic hog farms with 24 and sales of $627,058.
According to ERS, increased sales of organic and natural food products are being driven by health-conscious consumers. Natural foods supermarkets and other specialized retailers are benefiting from this trend. Food products offered by natural foods supermarkets tend to be less processed and frequently are free of preservatives, hormones and artificial ingredients.
USDA standards for organic food were implemented in 2002. Organic pork is raised in a production system that promotes and enhances biodiversity and biological cycles. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs. Pigs intended for meat products must be raised organically from the last third of gestation and without the use of antibiotics and growth hormone stimulants. In general, organic foods are minimally processed with artificial ingredients or preservatives.
According to the USDA, certified organic means "agricultural products have been grown and processed according to specific standards of various state and private certification organizations." Certifying agents review farm applications and qualified inspectors conduct annual on-site inspections. Farm records track all management practices and materials used in organic production.
Farm and processing operations that grow and process organic foods must be certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents. A certified operation must have a written Organic Farm Plan available to the public on request. An exception to the certification rule is made for operations with gross agricultural incomes of $5,000 or less.
Marketing channels for organic products depend on the size of market. For national distribution, organic products in general tend to move from the farm level to a cooperative processor and on to retailers. Another possibility is for production to move from a processor and then to a distributor before reaching retail outlets.
Due to increased feed costs, organically produced pork tends to be more expensive to raise compared to pork raised conventionally. Thus, consumers pay more. Unlike other organic products, organic meat tends to be marketed through natural foods stores rather than supermarket chains.
Local distribution of organically produced pork ranges from consumers purchasing directly from a farm location, through farmers’ markets or via the Internet.
In January 2005, the Agricultural Marketing Service announced rules to exempt certain organic producers and marketers from paying assessments under the research and promotion programs. Pork is one of 17 national research and promotion programs. The change will exempt producers and marketers operating under a National Organic Program approved organic system plan from paying assessments, provided they produce and market only commodities eligible for a "100 percent organic" label.
USDA-accredited certifying agents must also certify processors of organic foods. A certified operation must have a written Organic Farm Plan available to the public on request. Processors with organic sales totaling $5,000 or less are exempt from the certification rule.
Non-certified processors, producers and handlers are allowed to use the term “organic” in compliance with labeling requirements.
2016 Organic Survey, The Census of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA, 2017.
Marketing U.S. Organic Foods: Recent Trends from Farms to Consumers, Economic Research Service (ERS), 2009.
The National Organic Program
Organic Production, ERS, USDA.
Organic Trade Association Overview
- Pork: Marketing Alternatives, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), NCAT, 2004 - This study explains alternative marketing methods, such as direct, niche or organic-labeled pork, for producers using sustainable agricultural practices.
- Fourth National Organic Farmers' Survey: Sustaining Organic Farms in a Changing Organic Marketplace (Full Report), Organic Farming Research Foundation, 2004 - OFRF's National Organic Farmers' Surveys have collected data about organic farmers and farming for the years 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2001.
- Fourth National Organic Farmers' Survey: Sustaining Organic Farms in a Changing Organic Marketplace (Executive Summary), Organic Farming Research Foundation, 2004.
- Hogs, ERS, USDA.
- Market Trends, Organic Trade Association.
- Organic Livestock Requirements, National Organic Program, AMS, USDA, February 2013 - This fact sheet clarifies requirements for livestock to be certified organic. This fact sheet especially focuses on the ruminant pasture standards.
- Organic Production, ERS, USDA - This site includes data sets through 2005.
- Comparison of Pig Flow and Labor Needs in Two Organic Pork Production Systems, Iowa State University, 2001 - This research report evaluates pig flow and labor needs for two organic pork production systems. One system is a seasonal organic pork production system, while the other system is a continuous organic pork production system.
- Cost of Organic Pork Production, Iowa State University, 2003 - One issue that frequently surfaces in the organic pork production industry is the relatively limited information on production costs. The objective of this report is to determine the cost of organic pork production. This report addresses the issue by examining the increase of costs involved in expanding a seasonal (summer-only farrowing) organic pork production system to continuous production of organic hogs.
- Organic Pork Standards Fact Sheet, National Pork Board - This fact sheet explains what the organic standards mean to pork producers.
- Organic Pork and Food Safety, ARS, USDA, 2011
- Raising Organic Pigs: A Guide to USDA Certified Organic Requirements, ATTRA, National Sustainable Ag Information Service, 2011 - This publication addresses the four general topics related to organic certification for pigs: source of animals, feed, healthcare and living conditions.