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California egg farmers squawk over Proposition 2 space requirements for chickens

Chickens huddle in their cages at an egg processing plant at the Dwight Bell Farm in Atwater, Calif.

When Proposition 2 was approved by voters last year, many in the animal welfare community saw the legislation as landmark for the treatment of the state's farm animals.  Proposition 2 decreed, among other things, that egg-laying hens in California have enough room to stretch their wings fully, stand up and turn around.  (Farmers have until 2015 to become fully compliant with the new space regulations.)

More recently, a new piece of legislation, Assembly Bill 1437, sought to even the playing field for California egg farmers who fretted that Proposition 2's passage would simply pave the way for more eggs to be imported into the state from other states that weren't bound by the humane farm bill.  A.B. 1437, introduced by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), would require all eggs imported into California to comply with the space requirements set out in Proposition 2 by 2015.  (A.B. 1437 passed a state assembly vote by a large margin late last month but has yet to be voted on by the state Senate.)

"There was a concern last year that all of a sudden there would be a flood of imported eggs from across the country to California," Dr. Bill Grant II, president of the California Veterinary Medical Assn., told DVM Newsmagazine about A.B. 1437. "If this passes, that would not be the case."

But California's egg farmers are still concerned, and they laid out their issues in a letter sent to Huffman last week.  In the letter, the Assn. of California Egg Farmers called the language of Proposition 2 confusing.  

Our colleague Eric Bailey at the L.A. Now blog explains:

Debra J. Murdock, the group’s executive director, said in a letter sent Thursday to Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) that they would oppose his egg-production bill unless it is modified to include specifics on hen housing.

Murdock said her group supports the spirit of Huffman's bill, which would require that all eggs imported to California be produced in humane conditions. But first, she said, California farmers need to know how much space to provide to comply with Proposition 2.

Proposition 2 sought to rectify situations which found egg-laying hens living in cages with as little as 67 square inches of floor space per animal.  The standard described by the group United Egg Producers requires each bird to have at least 216 square inches of floor space in which to move about, according to the Modesto Bee.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Chickens in their cages at an Atwater, Cal., egg processing plant.  Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press

 
Comments () | Archives (13)

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And you wonder why the cost of everything is going up n California.

The egg industry was explicit during the Prop 2 campaign that they believed the law would ban cages. In fact, in their own ballot argument, they asserted the law is "so extreme" that the result would be "forcing hens outdoors for most of the day."

Now that Californians overwhelming approved Prop 2, the egg industry is changing its tune and trying to assert that it can still confine laying hens in cages.

Rather than continue fighting the will of the people, the industry should adopt cage-free housing that Prop 2 proponents have said along was the purpose of the new law.

It would serve California right if all of a sudden they find themselves without eggs or eggs at $4 to $6 a dozen. The industry giants will sell to whomever they can get the most profit from while doing the least to get it. It only makes good business sense to sell to the states that do not pose such restrictions. We’re talking about food people. Do you think a chicken feels like it is being treated fairly when it is being eaten. Should we provide counseling to the chickens who feel the deep sense of loss of having their eggs stolen from them only to be sold and eaten or for the cows that have slaughter anxiety? They are food. This is why everything is more expensive in California.

We need to address the number problem: too many humans on Earth. Only once we stop population growth and stabilize the number of humans to a sustainable level can we start to raise our poultry and livestock in a humane way -- outdoors, free range.

I am surprised by the comments above. I am not a vegetarian, but I cannot support factory farming of living beings. It's beyond cruel. And even if one doesn't care about the animals emotional well-being, keep in mind that factory farming has been bad for humans. The well-known problems of antibiotic overconsumption and emerging resistance, the polution, the breeding ground for new germs .. isn't that reason enough to push for less-intensive ways to grow our food?

I'm glad the voters of California found it more important to make sure chickens that will be killed for food have more comfort and dignity than gay and lesbian people. Serves them right if they end up with $6/dozen eggs.

Passing chicken cage legislation when the State is near bankruptcy? Wow... I'm glad I got the h*** out of CA back in 1982. Good luck people... you're REALLY going to need if you ever hope to get the State's priorities straightened out.

Brilliant! Now we can all pay more for eggs, so that the hens can stretch. Why not do this for chicken meat raisers, so that we can also pay twice as much for that? I'm sure everyone likes being broke!

"keep in mind that factory farming has been bad for humans"

I can understand if you're confused. Are you saying that it's worse for us all to have cheap food that you don't have to work for yourself? Ok, I suppose I can understand that. America is the fattest country in the world afterall.

$6 eggs is the ultimate goal of the group that pushed for this law. They wont rest until everyone is a vegan and those evil, evil farmers are so bound by legislation that they just give up growing crops and livestock and make patchuli oil instead. Step 1- complete.

The cost of everything is going up because of inflation, not because you are now paying a few cents extra for an egg. Overeating might be the problem of most Americans. Unless you are eating a dozen eggs a day, how else are you going to be affected by someone charging you a few extra cents per egg? Eat fewer eggs and you will have fewer medical bills to pay.

I see some complaints here about prop 2.
The point is that the food that we'll be eating will be healthier and of better quality. I seriously doubt that we're going to experience a 175% price hike if the egg producers offset the additional space costs by using LED lighting or get smarter about how they run their business.
Hell I currently buy 5 doz eggs for just over $5.
I would gladly pay $7 if they were fed organic "natural feed" and were free range animals because I know from experience that the eggs are simply better then those produced from hormone and amphetamine stressed out birds. The product lasts longer too.
This is California ,let us lead... you can follow later.

HSUS' claim that costs would go up only a penny an egg is misleading. Just go to the supermarket and you'll see that cage free eggs can cost TWICE as much. That is why African American and Latino groups oppose Prop. 2. Poor people rely on eggs as a main protein source. Eggs have been relatively inexpensive. With Prop. 2, all kinds of food will go up in price.

I am amazed, too, at some of these comments. I can only hope that those who are scoffing about misery have never actually looked at the existence these creatures' lives are made of.
If you can't feel horrified when you see the reality of factory farming living beings, something very bad has happened to your humanity.
Please don't dismiss unnatural forced suffering as though it only counts if it happens to a human.. We are all part of the web of life, and empathy is a part of love.


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