All egg producers selling eggs in California must now provide more space for their caged laying hens. As reported by the New York Times, the law “is expected to bring rising egg prices across the United States,” also quoting the National Association of Egg Farmers’ spokesman, Ken Klippen, who is concerned that the hens may actually experience a higher incidence of injuries in the roomier cases.
The concerns about the rising cost of basic food staples, like eggs, have been countered by activists, claiming that consumers are willing to pay higher prices for allegedly more humanely produced food. We will soon know if those claims are accurate.
The law has, to date, been unsuccessfully challenged in court by “[a]ttorneys general of six states – Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Alabama –[who] sued to challenge the constitutionality of a California law requiring that all eggs sold in California be raised under standards laid out for California egg producers in a 2008 state ballot measure,” as reported by Frank Morris of Harvest Public Media.
United Egg Producers (“UEP”), a “cooperative of egg farmers from all across the United States and representing the ownership of approximately 95% of all the nation’s egg-laying hens” reports that California is the fifth largest egg producing state in the U.S, providing the following ranking of number of layers represented in thousands:”
1. Iowa – 58,100
2. Ohio – 29,733
3. Indiana – 26,629
4. Pennsylvania – 24,089
5. California – 15,234
6. Texas – 14,760
7. Michigan – 12,688
8. Minnesota – 10,583
9. Georgia – 9,550
10. Nebraska – 9,342
UEP has a long-standing animal welfare certification program, having formed a scientific committee in 1999 to review existing standards, and recommend standards of care for UEP members.
“UEP launched the UEP Certified program in April 2002. Today, more than 80% of all eggs produced in the United States are produced under the UEP Certified guidelines. Any egg farmer desiring to be recognized and market eggs as UEP Certified must implement the scientific guidelines on 100% of their flocks. An auditing program was established to assure each farmer’s compliance with the guidelines.”
Activists, not satisfied with these guidelines, have promoted cage-free environments for egg-laying hens. Proposition 2, the California ballot initiative that passed in 2008, “called for ‘calves raised for veal, egg-laying hens, and pregnant pigs [to] be confined only in ways that allow these animals to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely.’” See more at: http://civileats.com/2014/09/03/what-a-difference-a-cage-makes-the-battle-over-humane-egg-production-in-california-heats-up/#sthash.vW3A6hpH.dpuf
Currently, California’s egg producers have interpreted the law to allow them to continue housing hens in cages, but providing more room than before.
The law requires all eggs sold in California to be produced by farmers using the same standards as those required within the state. The requirement for out-of-state producers to comply with these California standards formed the basis for the previously mentioned lawsuits.
Undoubtedly, there will be much more analysis about the impact of this law on animal health, the egg-laying industry, and consumer purchasing practices.