What does it mean for an organic chicken to live its life outside?

Lest you think there is an easy answer, listen to Jennifer Tucker ’91, second-in-command at the National Organic Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture: “Animal welfare is a contentious policy issue,” she explains. “For many consumers, how organic animals live brings up a core value about what ‘organic’ means. The decisions can impact market opportunities for farmers and consumer perceptions about organics—for years to come.”

Concepts like values, economics, environmental science, and the organic brand go into any regulatory decision. “When we propose rules to clarify requirements or build new markets, we get conflict-

ing feedback from organic farmers and businesses, consumers, advocacy groups, and scientists. Our job is to consider all the benefits and costs, the different impacts to different businesses, and the value consumers place on organics. What factors determine that purchase decision?”

“Decisions we make today will affect the country throughout the next decade,” she adds. “How do we maintain fidelity to the future administration’s priorities, and fidelity to past decisions that were made in an open, public, and transparent process? It is a question we ask each and every day.”