Processing and handling

#Auction yards

Auction yards that sell organic animals are required to be certified organic.


This article is specific to auction yards. Please contact OTCO for more information if you are interested in purchasing organic animals through an on-farm or video auction.

If you plan to purchase organic livestock through an auction, obtain a copy of the auction yard’s organic certificate prior to making any bid(s). As a relatively new requirement by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), not all auctions may be aware of the rule change.

Organic animals delivered to uncertified auction yards immediately lose their organic status. They may not be sold as organic, although they may be sold on-site as non-organic. These animals are not eligible for transition back into organic production.


Under USDA NOP guidance — see Certification Requirements for Handling Unpackaged Organic Products and Who Needs to be Certified — livestock are considered unpackaged products. Therefore, the handling and sales of live animals through an auction or other facility requires organic certification.

#Livestock broker

As of October 1, 2017, OTCO-certified organic operations may only purchase organic livestock from other certified organic operations. Purchase of organic livestock through uncertified brokers/traders will not be accepted and result in an immediate noncompliance. Uncertified operations may still provide transportation services for organic livestock, but cannot be involved in the purchase or sale of organic livestock.

All livestock purchase records require:

  • A valid organic certificate from the seller
  • Purchase documents (e.g., receipts and shipping records) that include the seller’s name and the individual animal identification for each certified organic animal purchased, or the flock ID for each certified organic flock of poultry (e.g. pullets)
  • Confirmation of payment to the operator identified on the valid organic certificate
  • Traceable individual animal identification throughout the supply chain, such as:

    • Regulatory animal health program tags, such as Bangs tags/USDA Silver Brite tags for Brucellosis in cattle, or Scrapie program tags in sheep.
    • Animal identification number tags, with or without RFID technology
    • Breed registry identification numbers
  • Transportation records (e.g., logbooks, etc.) showing the original location of pick up, total travel time on vehicle, and delivery to the final destination

#Livestock transport operators

Livestock transporters that move animals from one certified farm or facility to another are not required to hold organic certification, but are eligible to be certified.

If using uncertified transporters, organic animals must be (a) moved without unloading at uncertified facilities and (b) must not be combined with loads of animals from multiple operations.

OTCO-certified livestock producers are asked to provide information regarding:

  • How animals are transported
  • How animals are identified as organic
  • At what point ownership of the animals change
  • How the transporter is prepared to handle animal welfare during transport

Certified operation that contract/hire uncertified transporters must include this information as part of their Organic System Plan (OSP). Documentation is required to demonstrate requirements are met. Transportation records (e.g., logbooks, etc.) should show the original location of pick up, total travel time on vehicle, and delivery to the final destination.

#Slaughter facilities

Meat cannot be labeled or sold as organic unless the slaughter and processing happens at a USDA National Organic Program (NOP) certified facility.


A certified organic facility is different than having a USDA or state meat inspection. Organic handlers must comply with all other federal, state and local inspection program requirements. It’s important to plan for accessing a certified organic facility if choosing to raise organic livestock.

The organic certification requirements for a slaughter facility focus on the prevention of commingling or contamination of organic product within the facility and auditability of the documentation trail from when the animal enters the facility to the departure of the finished product.

Sanitizers and cleaners used on equipment and in direct contact with products must be approved for use — as stated by the National List and USDA NOP regulations — and meat cannot be irradiated.

Any certified organic animal processed at a non-certified facility immediately loses its organic status upon delivery. It may not be sold as organic. Livestock can be sold “on the hoof,” meaning that a buyer takes ownership of the live animal or portion of the live animal prior to slaughter.


The USDA NOP regulations require that unless exempt or excluded, operations that produce or handle livestock, livestock products or other agricultural products that are intended to be sold, labeled, or represented as organic must be certified according to the regulations. The term “handler” includes livestock slaughter facilities.

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