Hens Laying California-Bound Eggs Say Goodbye to Cages

By Alex Tung

Thanks to the passage of A.B. 1437, all hens that lay eggs intended for human consumption in the State of California will be able to “to stand up, fully extend their limbs, lie down and spread their wings without touching each other or the sides of their enclosure” by 2015.  This essentially bans the practice of cramming hens in small cages that restrict their movement, which is typically done in factory farms.

The law will apply to all eggs that are sold whole (shelled) and farms outside the state that want to sell whole eggs in California will also have to comply with this law. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

This law will apply to all eggs that are sold whole (shelled).  Farms outside the state that want to sell whole eggs in California will also have to comply with this law.  Liquid egg products, however, will remain unregulated, as well as products that contain egg as an ingredient.  These products account for approximately 40 percent of the eggs consumed in California.

Among organizations that support this bill are ASPCA, Sierra Club California, Planning and Conservation League, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Bon Appétit Management Company and the Humane Society of the United States.

Ohio is also working on a similar ballot measure to improve conditions for farm animals, which includes “a moratorium for permits for new battery cage confinement facilities for laying hens.”

A spokesman for the United Egg Producers says there is no scientific evidence that the quality of eggs is affected by the hens’ living conditions.  In a recent press release, the organization cited that consumers overwhelmingly preferred eggs from “traditional, cage housing systems” over those in “cage-free” systems, mostly likely due to price difference.

Daniel Sumner, director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center says this measure will result in an overall increase in national egg prices by about two cents.

Also, experience from the “bird-flu” pandemic tells us that in crowded factory farms, animals tend to get sick easier, and the spread of illness is quicker.  It is hard to imagine consumers preferring eggs laid by sick hens over those laid by healthy ones.

Regardless, the quality of life for hens laying California-bound eggs are about to go up a notch, and that is a victory worth celebrating.

To learn more about efforts towards humane, sustainable animal rearing practices, see Mexican Activists Pushing for Factory Farm Regulations, Innovation of the Week: Using Livestock to Rebuild and Preserve Communities and Happier Meals .

Alex Tung is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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