In Europe, organic livestock production has experienced a rapid growth in the past decade, which has produced many challenges for the animal food production system. Whilst emphasising the importance of a systems approach to animal health and welfare protection, organic livestock production standards place considerable restrictions on the use of many animal health inputs that are routinely used in conventional production systems. Recommended practices in the European Organic Livestock Standards (EU Regulation 1804/1999), such as closed herds and flocks and improved health security on farms, also include extensive production systems (e.g., free range production) that expose livestock to increased disease challenge. Organic livestock production faces major challenges with regard to harmonisation and successful integration of organic animal husbandry into the whole organic production system. Major questions about food quality and safety exist. Significant diversity between farming systems between different countries in Europe, including candidate countries, should be taken into account in developing farming systems that all comply with common EU standards, but are in harmony with their geographic and cultural localities. A newly initiated EU network project 'Sustaining Animal Health and Food Safety in Organic Farming' (SAFO), with 26 partners in Europe, focuses on the integration of animal health and welfare issues with food safety aspects. This network and some of the key questions in focus in this network are presented in this paper.
- Animal health
- Food safety
- Organic animal food production